Chief Jackson Ude, Odozi Obodo 1 of Nkporo Ancient Kingdom of Ohafia LG, Abia State, is a journalist with specialisation in political communications, media, public policy and political management. He was trained in the United States and Canada where he bagged his Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees. He was a House of Assembly aspirant for Ohafia North and a former Presidential Strategist. In this interview, he gave an assessment of the APC’s Government led by President Mohammadu Buhari, the fight against corruption and issues surrounding the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
On Anti-Corruption fight and the Dasuki scandal
The anti-corruption war is good for this country. It does not matter whether it is coming from a PDP or APC government. There is a need for any government in power to look into the issue of corruption that has become endemic in this part of the world. I am not going to tow the party line by castigating the APC for fighting corruption. Fighting corruption was part of their campaign promises and I am glad that President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to clean the mess in the system.
But whether he is fighting it objectively and holistically beyond party, ethnic and religious inclinations, remains an issue for debate. I think as much as the war is good, I see a selective pursuit of the anti-corruption war. I say that because if you check the list of people being prosecuted, you hardly see an APC member. And if you do see an APC member, its either he is sympathetic to the PDP or has offended the top echelon of the APC. Does it mean only PDP members have stolen in this country? Does it mean only PDP members have cases in the EFCC? There are a lot of cases against APC members in the EFCC. But nobody is talking about it. Now we have a situation where he arrested a friend of his, Col. Ja’afru Isa, and in less than 48 hours he was let off the hook. He was not even charged to court. So a rational mind will know that something is wrong in the fight against corruption. I want presidency Buhari to fight corruption and dig out every one that has been seen to have stolen the people’s money and prosecute them judiciously.
But the EFCC chairman recently challenged that they have not seen petitions against APC members
That is not correct. Are you saying there are no petition against Fayemi, Ameachi, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State who is currently wanted in the U.S over the Abacha loots and many other APC members? All these have been documented many years ago. There are petitions against them. Whether those petitions were borne out of animosity or politics is a different issue. But the fact remains that there are petitions which have to be treated. If they now come out to say they have not seen petitions it therefore means they are lying to Nigerians. But I insist that there are petitions against APC members currently sitting on the table of the EFCC. Whether they choose to prosecute is another issue, but they should not tell Nigerians that there are no petitions against APC folks written by Nigerians. If you go to Ekiti state, governor Ayo Fayose, will tell you what he met on ground. That Fayose has refused to open a can of worms does not mean his predecessor didn’t dip his hands into the purse of the state. In Lagos state there are stories of monumental fraud perpetuated by APC members in the state especially under former Governor Bola Tinubu. But they were tactically swept under the carpet. Political strategists like us understand the game. I am not against Buhari’s anti-corruption fight in fact I support it, if he finds me as a Nigerian or any of my friends to be corrupt, we should be investigated. The same too should be done for members of the APC. Corruption has no face, it has not ethnic group or political affiliation, it is a Nigerian problem and should be fought without prejudice. A PDP government that setup EFCC, ICPC, which are structures the APC is using to fight corruption today, they should use it well and don’t politicize it because the Act that setup EFCC and ICPC didn’t say prosecute only PDP members. It said any Nigerian who is found to be corrupt should be charged to court.
With the monumental allegations against PDP members won’t that affect PDP as a brand going into future elections?
Both PDP and APC members have at one time or the other being accused of corruption. Former governor of Lagos State, has been accused of corruption severally, has he been convicted? Conviction of an accused is the only thing that shows that indeed that person is corrupt. That one is being tried on the pages of Newspapers and social media is not enough to convict anybody. That PDP members are being tried on the pages of newspaper does not mean they are corrupt. The brand PDP remains. PDP is only paying the price of impunity. It is paying the price of not checking the influx of undemocratic elements within its fold. The party is paying the price of refusing to change its ways of doing things. If they can fix their house and amend its ways, the PDP as a brand will stand, otherwise, it is doomed!
Q- what do you mean?
PDP was formed by men who knew how Nigeria got independence. As part players in how Nigeria got independence they were core democrats, who understood the workings of democracy.
The likes of Alex Ekwueme, late Abubakar Rimi, the Chief Sunday Awoniyi, Solomon Lar, these were men were there during the pre and post independence era of politics and they formed PDP.
Immediately it was formed, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and over 100 retired Army officers who served under military government either as Military Governors, Administrators and what have you, joined the PDP. PDP became an umbrella for which to continue being relevant in the system. These people came with a lot of money they stole during the military era, polluted the party and found their way into elective offices. They polluted the party to a point where impunity became part and parcel of PDP. That was how impunity started in PDP. The real founding fathers of PDP were forced to take a back seat. Today, we have a crop of PDP leaders who are just opportunists, who didn’t see the vision that the founders of the party saw. These are the men that brought PDP to its knees today. Until PDP purges itself of these elements or find a way of rebranding these men, it will find it difficult to stand again.
Do you have objections to the reforms processes by the current NWC?
All those things are good on paper but will they be implemented faithfully. Of course setting up committees to review why we lost and formulating ideas on how to move forward is good, but practicing it is another matter. For me, PDP must stop imposition of candidates. That is a major thing they must stop for the party to be in a process of healing itself. Some of us ran for elections and we were told midway to step down because there was “somebody” that was considered a preferred candidate. Is that politics? Just because we didn’t want to cause more crises in the party at the time, we stepped down. But does it mean we were happy stepping down after spending hard earned resources and doing rigorous campaigns? Of course, no. I believe PDP has to purge itself of the imposition mentality, which is totally alien to democracy. In democracy the most popular aspirant by way of votes emerges and he is presented as candidate for the larger contest. Bringing in the youths, younger minds, fresh bloods, is also very important. The young people in this country have been so much deceived by politicians. They promise 30 to 50 percent inclusion in the party administration but after the elections the closest to a young person would be in his 50’s. PDP at some point even had a youth leader who was over 60years. So it is not about forming committees, making and endorsing recommendations, the issue is whether it will stand.
National convention fears and doom
To be honest I fear for PDP. I fear that if issues are not properly handled the party will disintegrate. We cannot chase away the current NWC members just like that. We have to get to a point where we have to start negotiating them out of power. The acting national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, is like a bull in the China shop. You can’t just chase him out like that. We have to find an appropriate way to ease him out of power so that we can build the party again. But if we are doing it with so much fight, it will backfire and the party will disintegrate. Former political aide to former president Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, went to court and plans to declare himself chairman. That is not the best way to go about it. Everybody loves power, nobody wants power to be taken away from them abruptly. Much as I fear for the party ahead of the convention, I believe that some of our leaders who are smart and sensible enough would intervene in the matter, to ensure we don’t end up having a chaotic convention.
Party Deputy’s call for those involved in Dasuki issue to step aside?
I sympathize with the deputies. Unfortunately Nigerians don’t know how to play politics of inclusion. We have a situation where president’s, governors, local government chairmen, look at their deputies and vices as nobody. They treat their them with disdain and contempt. That mentality is also in the party administration, where party leaders treat their deputies with disdain. If Olisa Metuh, had carried his deputy all along and ensured his deputy handled worthy tasks in the office with all the instruments to work, this issue won’t arise. If Metuh had collected money from Jonathan for the work he is elected to do just like his deputy and he returns to the office, shared the money, his deputy won’t be angry. He would do all it takes to defend him at this time. But because Metuh collected, pocketed and kept mum and now claimed it was for work he did for Jonathan, that angers his deputy because Metuh won’t be able to see Jonathan, let a lone collect money from him if he is not the PDP National Publicity Secretary. It is on his title and office that he got all the funds he collected and so, his deputy has rights to know how much he got and for what it was used for. But because the deputy was not carried along he naturally would get angry. It’s a natural thing. If monies were collected for that office, which includes the leader and his deputy, and the deputy is sidelined, you don’t expect the deputy to defend the leader when the bubble busts. He may not have the fact to defend his boss.
State of the economy?
For a thoroughbred politician, before campaign begins, he or she begins to think like a president. You are already planning how you will run your cabinet and those that would serve in it, whether or not you win the election. Few minutes after former President Goodluck Jonathan placed that first phone call to President Buhari, he would have reinforced and fine-tuned his plans and shape of his cabinet. But all that never happened. We got to a stage where we were looking for saints to be ministers and it took us six months to find. And when they were unveiled they turned out to be the same faces we have been seeing, some of whom even have alleged corruption files at the EFCC. What that means is that the APC Government spent it first six months sleeping.
When the cabinet was eventually formed, there was no clear policy on ground. The only policy this government came with is that of fighting corruption. All other things were campaign promises that have not seen the light of day. There was 5,000 naira for the unemployed and underprivileged, creation of 3million jobs yearly, return of Chiboks girls in two weeks. These are some of the major promises they made. But they have been there for seven months and nothing, not even a foundation to guarantee the take off of those promises . If you promise to create 3 million jobs by now we should be seeing 1.5m jobs or 1 million jobs. In fact what we see are job losses and only God knows how much more jobs we will be losing in coming months. They promised free meals for pupils but instead they are recycling names of persons who are allegedly corrupt and the monies they allegedly stole as an excuse to say the free meals no longer possible. We have not even seen policy about what form the free meals will take. On the Chibok girls, we all saw the recent embarrassment their parents faced when they met with the President recently. This means that this government is set out with no plan. In fact they didn’t believe they would win the election, they were shocked that they were declared winner. For a president who was fast becoming a chronic election loser, he was shocked to have won and by the time he got over the shock from his victory, the oil price had gone down with free falling Naira, unemployment shot up, spreading hunger. So APC Government came into office, lacking preparation and they don’t know what to tell Nigerians. They don’t understand that there is a difference between campaign and governance. They don’t understand the difference between ruling party and opposition. APC is both the ruling and opposition party.
On the budget and empty treasury being responsible for the late implementation of campaign promises?
It is a lie that the treasury was empty. If the treasury was empty how did they give out bailout funds running into Billions to States. Did they get that money from the moon? So they cannot say the federation account was empty. APC is still sleeping, believing that they are still in campaign mode. Until they wake up to the realities of governance, they will not stop this propaganda of bandying figures all around, alleging huge stolen monies and claiming there was no money in the Federation account. If there was no money in the Federation account, we need to know how the president got money to bail out the states? If he got money from banks, let him publish the account of the federation so that we will know that when he came in it was zero. With regards to the budget, if this administration was ready for governance, knowing that they are inheriting a PDP budget they would have submitted a supplementary budget. The supplementary budget would have taken care of some campaign promises.
Q isn’t some of these expectations too early?
In politics, there is nothing that is too early. In politics you hit the ground running not crawling. Buhari hit the ground crawling and even slept off for six months. Nigerians can only take this for this period. But I can tell you that if by end of July nothing is done to create jobs, and meet all the other campaign promises, the criticism against this government would be worse than Jonathan’s.
What do you make of the recent budget saga?
What played out at the National Assembly further reinforces the fact that this government was not prepared for governance. When you are not prepared and you begin to feel that the public is watching your shortcomings, you hurriedly package something. The 2016 budget is a hurriedly packaged document. They had already told Nigerians that the budget would be ready at a certain time so they were scrambling to meet that time. When you got your ministers in October and you present a budget in December, it shows how unprepared the APC government is. There is no way you can capture all the needs of ministries within that time, especially when you want to do zero budgeting, how is that possible. But when ministers began to see areas of need, they then realized that if they implement the budget as it was presented, most ministries would not have money to do their jobs.
Again, you will notice that this budget was hurriedly done, as it is pegged at 38 dollars per barrel, at a time we have free falling oil price globally. Of course, Buhari didn’t create this problem and we can’t blame him for our economic problems but we will blame him for not understanding that this problem was coming. He should have quickly created an enabling environment to cushion the effect when it happens. Jonathan saw this coming that was why he created the Sovereign Wealth Fund unfortunately the APC Governors kicked against it. So if the president has the economic foresight to see that the oil price will be falling for a longer time, 2016 budget won’t be pegged at $38 per barrel. At best, with sound economist and financial experts around him, the budget should have been pegged at $30 per barrel to be on the safe side. The 2016 budget, the first for an APC as the Government at the center, shows it is not in sync with the economic realities of the day.
But we hope and pray that the 2016 budget will lead us to the right economic path where there will be boom in Nigeria. We are all Nigerians. That I am a PDP member does not mean I don’t want APC to succeed. It will be in my interest for APC to succeed. I will be happy that at least a party has come to do something differently from the PDP. It would force PDP to put its house together so that when they step out to campaign for future elections, they would have something more robust to offer Nigerians.
Abia and the appeal court ruling
I am not going to sit here and castigate the judiciary but we also know that the judiciary has a problem in this country. That is the home truth. Let the judiciary look at itself and ask if they have been fair to Nigeria and Nigerians. I also want politicians, of which I am a part of, to look at themselves and ask if they have been fair to Nigeria and Nigerians. Nigerians should also ask themselves if they have been fair to the country. When these deep and reflective questions are asked, then we can come back to build a Nigeria of our dream.
I am not a legal person but my common sense tells me you don’t disenfranchise people. It is the fundamental right of every citizen of Nigeria that is up to 18 years to exercise his or her right to vote and to be voted for. It’s a universal right all over the world. But when a court, in its ruling decides to disenfranchise a certain constituency on an allegation of over voting, no voting, lack of voting or rigging, that is clearly disenfranchising people and going against the rights of a free born citizen of this country. That on its own cannot stand. So we expect the Supreme Court to do the needful. I cannot tell the Supreme Court what to do. It is comprised of learned men and women with the highest level of integrity and legal knowledge. They will sit back and look critically at the content of the Appeal Court judgment and give ruling that is in tandem with provisions of fairness and justice. That is my expectation.
Some believe Nigerians are the easiest to rule, why do you say Nigerians are difficult to rule?
I say Nigerians are the most difficult because they have seen it all. They have seen all forms of governments including the military dictatorships quasi-civilian and civilian Governments and they have heard and seen lies, deceit, stealing of their common wealth with impunity. So they have become cynical as such they don’t trust anybody anymore. Any single mistake from any politician, he is ruled out. Jonathan was not a bad man, but he was too gentle for a country like Nigeria. He didn’t play the kind of politics that people wanted him to play. And so he lost because Nigerians already had a mindset.
Perhaps if Jonathan was throwing dissenting voices in jail, maybe he would have been feared and a lot of things wouldn’t have happened. But because he is a complete gentleman, some people who are serving in government now called him all manner of names, including clueless, drunk, incompetence and all that. But the unfortunate thing we have done to our country is that we have laid precedence for a high dose of propaganda that will have no respect for authorities and institutions. So sadly, the same way Jonathan was abused is the same way Buhari will be abused and called names. Those who started it are in government today and they will suffer from what they started. It was the worst form of politics that we played where anybody can call a sitting president all manner of names and we all laugh over it. We even celebrate it on social media for the world to see. It was the worst form of politics and it will hunt future leaders of this country. I am not saying people should not express themselves but we should operate with a lot of decency.
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