MDAs still think budget preparation and defense is a joke– Hon. Ihonvbere

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Hon. Julius Ihonvbere is member House of Representatives representing Owan West/East Federal Constituency, in this interview with our correspondent Doris Igwe, he speaks on the challenges confronting parliament on speedy passage of the appropriation bill and other sundry issues.

Ques: What is your opinion on the recent budget defence by the National Assembly?

Ans: This is not the first time we are going through the ritual of budget making  and the president, when he came to the National Assembly to present the budget was very clear that this was going to be a budget of recovery of nation building, of trying to take care of those areas where you have inbalances but also appealled  that the national assembly should try as much as possible not to alter the budget too much. And if you look at the provisions, there were efforts to put a lot of resources in security, in education, in health particularly with the covid-19 realization and infrastructure. And since we received it, we’ve been working hard, infact, at times we are here till very late at night trying to make sure we meet the deadline to set the example we gave ourselves that look we can do this January-December budget circle.

 My basic observation about the process; one, is that many MDAs still think this is a joke. They don’t take it seriously, when they come for the defence, they are not prepared, which shows that those who prepared their documents for them and those who are coming to present are two different entities with no synergy. Some cannot even properly read the documents they are suppose to present because they don’t even understand the figures. Number two, there is still too many trivialities in the budget; buy cars, buy computers, these are things that comes every year. Computers are not things you use one year and you abandon them, a vehicle can last you for four, five years even if you are using it as a pool vehicle but you maintain it. So there is vehicle maintenance, fuelling generators, buying generators, maintaining furniture. Now, many of these items, I have my doubts, you go to many of the offices, the furnitures are delapidated, they are not fixed, and the question of buying computers I think that is just neither here nor there.

Moreover, there seems to be a problem between the MDAs and the budget office, I think this envelop system, while it makes things easy as prescribed by the donors and partners, bilateral organizations, world Bank especially, we have to use it very carefully otherwise we will use the envelop system to creat more trouble for our people. Take an instance, all the people in that budget office, none of them knows what is going on. They don’t know what is going on in my local government, they only have some ideas about what is going on in the state, maybe the capital city. So communities, large communities are left out of the budget making process on federal projects.

There is a road, Sabo-sobe road in Owan local government, Edo State, which is in my constituency, contract awarded over 10, 11 years ago, the road was done half way about 40% and abandoned. Nobody remembers that that road exist anymore, it’s a federal road. The State will not go and fix it because they have problem of financial restraint, secondly, to get the money back is a problem and we have written letters, we have made pleas, I can’t go and use my own resources to bribe and say put this road in the budget, but it’s a federal road. We wonder the level of record keeping, the extent to which they go back to projects already started, so they can complete it beyond those that are polular like the airport road where the president passes some times.

I believe that we need to thinker with that process. What I have also observed in the process is that I don’t want to use the word discrimination, but there seems to me that in that same budget office, ministry of finance, there is no way of monitoring the releases so that they know which agencies, or which ministries are suffering because either they have no connection in Abuja, they have no connection in the ministry, they don’t have somebody here who speaks for them. There is an agency I know for instance, that got only 9% capital release but there are also agencies that received almost 100%. If the office, the budget office was living up to it’s standard, I know they have a lot of responsibilities, but there should be a system where with the push of a button, you can say oh, these MDAs don’t appear to be accessing their capital and you will contact them. I mean, there are people who say oh you have to lobby, why should they have to lobby, the budget has been approved, implementation is the next phase, they don’t need to come and beg, they don’t need to spend scarce funds to come to Abuja, fly to Abuja, book hotel, feed, then go to be making pilgrimages to the ministry to do the work. And I think that is an area where there is a need for a new conversation between the budget office and the National Assembly to make sure that those that require money, once it is released, get their money. Why are some suffering and some are enjoying and smiling.

The other is that I will say that the issue for us is not even presenting the budget, we reviewing it and making sure things are balance, but implementation, that is where Nigeria have always had problems. Budget contain good items that will benefit the people, improve the economy, promote growth and development, improve the imcomes of our people, but when it comes to implementation; you have planned indicipline, you have massive corruption, you have careless, unsupervised implementation, you have duplication of projects and that is because there are so many MDAs that are doing almost the same thing which is why the government have to take a look at Orosaye report about the need to merge many of these agencies. Look at their mandates, it’s almost the same and they have these budgets to do practically the same thing, some do, some don’t. And in reviewing the budget also, if you look at some MDAs, it’s amazing, an agency of government, who’s impact you hardly feel, will have up to five thousand staffs. So if you look at most of the money we are making in this country is going towards paying salaries and allowances, overhead. And there is a problem there, the federal bureaucracy is clearly too large. There are people recruited there, many doing nothing, if you go to many offices, you will see them there, roaming around, gisting, selling items, some don’t even come to work and nobody takes note. So, there is a need to have another conversation on this. How do we make the federal bureaucracy leaner, more efficient, more effective, of course if we are going to disengage people from the federal bureaucracy, there are creative and innovative ways which we can deploy them to areas where they can be useful. Most of these people are graduates. We need teachers, send some of them disengaged to training school for one year during which they will be paid and then get them into the teaching service. If they refuse, then they can resign and go or retire and go.

 There are persons in there who have degrees in education, B.Ed, what is a B.Ed doing in the ministry? Maybe some of them in ministry of education, yes. But generally, the purpose of the B.Ed degree is to produce professional teachers. Infact, many many years ago, it was automatic scholarship if you were going to read a degree in education because of our desire, but then there are thousands of schools in Nigeria with one teacher, two teachers, head master.and two teachers. So we need to get our priorities right and focus and decide on whether we are going to do things to promote the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians or we are just going to continue to joke around with this whole question.

So while the process appears to be okay, the lawmakers appears to be working very hard, I think the MDAs, most of them need to take this process more seriously. They need to have more conversations with the budget office, but I also believe the budget office need to create a new synergy and conversation with the National Assembly. Because if we engage the budget only at the point of review, it means these items in the budget are new to us but if there is a conversation between the budget office, the relevant national assembly committee and the MDAs, we would be able to say last year, you brought us purchase of computers, this year, don’t put it in the budget. You can move that amount of money into purchase of furniture for schools. We can have a conversation say, last year, you put conferences, you didn’t attend any conference, in any case, these days of covid, what we want to see is that you are scaling your technology into a zoom conference on workshop not hoping for this large conference. Last year, you put international travels, you didn’t go anywhere because of covid, covid is still there, it’s even getting worse, so why are you repeating international travels at this level this year. Every country is looking inward, Australia closed all it’s borders, they’ve grounded their airline, they said don’t go anywhere, don’t bring covid from outside there, let’s manage what we have inside. What I am not seeing in most of the agencies is they think it’s business as usual, there is no initiative, an attempt to retool, to say, the world is changing, things are different, we are not going to get back to the old ways. The new norm requires creative, innovative, scientific thinking. How do we do things differently. Many company in the world are telling more than half of their workers don’t bother coming back to the office, work from home. They’ve introduced new technology, new methods of supervision, new methods of monitoring, new mothods of reward so that they can still get the job done. Many of them are declaring profits, it’s part of the lockdown showing that coming to the office and making all the noise in the building is not what is the most productive way to get people to work. There has to be new incentives. We are not talking that in Nigeria, there is no conversation on that, they are still coming here with the same same old type of budgeting. We need a whole new national conversation on budget making, on budgeting, on priority setting, on agenda setting, on how to involve agencies communities, constituencies and players that will be involve in the implementation and oversight of the budget, that way we can get value for money. For me, the process is fine but then the post budget era like I said earlier has it’s own challenges that right now, we are not dealing with properly.

Ques: Capital expenditure hasn’t really been done because we have a lot of infrastructural deficit, how can we bridge the gap, today, Nigeria is in recession  and the economic experts say that the only out or one of the ways out of this is to spend o infrastructure, so how do we get out to really bridge this gap we see in the country?

Ans:Well, capital expenditure is not performing because as I said earlier, a lot of those areas that require attention are out of the radar of the ministry of budget when they design their envelop. I gave an example of a federal road in my constituency that has been abandoned for over 8 or 9years. It never features, they’ve forgotten about it and there are many roads like that, it’s only Abuja they keep making roads, making it look beautiful, but behind Abuja is the rot, FERMA, how many roads are they doing? Where are they doing them?  Between Okene and Okpella in Edo state has been a dead trap, a place for kidnappers everyday because you have to slow down whether you like it or no. if you slow then the kidnappers find it easy to kidnap you into the bush. So dealing with it requires agenda setting, priority setting, a proper need assessment, a national needs assessment. We keep talking of having God knows how many, over twenty thousand abandoned projects in the country why can’t you say, this year, 50% of our resources will go to complete this.

Ques: Prof. Specifically speaking, you are an academic, if you are to proffer solutions of how Nigeria can get out of current economic situation recession, what would be your solution to it?

Ans:  The economist will tell you, promote growth, but if you promote growth without development, you get more poverty, insecurity, violence  and even underdevelopment. If you want to spend in those areas that will create more jobs for people, and earn real income and return they will invest and save so your saving base goes up and spending in the market puts money in the pockets of people out there, that is one. But you have to get your priorities right first, you have to know what you want to spend on, you have to know which areas are more productive, the problem in Nigeria is that there is no real production going on.

We are talking of refinery, because refinery can create seven thousand jobs, eight thousand jobs but what they produce here services only a small percentage of the population. What are we doing with agriculture? For instance, what are we doing with protecting our export base, what are we doing about getting young people off the streets, the young people are not asking for free money from government? Give us loans to go to school, give us grants to go to school? Now the other problem is that there is a tendency to just focus on the federal but the solution is at the states and local government levels. The local governments are not performing. First, they are all overstaffed by between 20 and 50 percent  because each chairman leaving recruits one thousand people who will vote for him to contest for House of Assembly which is his next goal and nobody has the courage to lay them off, not the governor who is looking for popularity for a second term not the new chairman who is also hoping to do same. Just like the federal bureaucracy, every political appointee brings in his own set of people and leaves them behind, they manipulate their way into the bureaucracy and it gets bloated, so we have to have a conversation on this. What is going on at the local government level? Every Nigeria lives in a local government, now if every Nigeria lives in a local government, what is the level of productivity? Insecurity, now, this government cannot claim to have done well in security.

Ques: How do you mean? You are part of the government

Ans:Yes, but we’ve not done well. We must admit it. It is when you deny the truth to yourself, you know, it’s like an ugly person standing in front of the mirror, and saying mehn see me.

Ques: And you recall it is one of the cardinal point of the administration

Ans: Yes it was but we are not doing well. Am sitting here with you now, am afriad to go home in December because of the criminality in the state and on the high ways everyday.

Ques: The NASS has consistently asked the president to relieve the Service Chiefs of their duties what is your take?

Ans: Why the president is keeping them, he is the only one who can explain.  Their tenures has expired. So why is he still keeping them? Are there no more competent people? You cannot get a different result from doing the same thing every day. If I were president, I will get in new hands who want to now show me that they can perform. These people are already routinized. Routinization is the mother of inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Get in young hands who understands modern technology, modern warfare. You are complaining of bandits in the president’s home state, they don’t trek in there, they don’t varnish, they come in in motorcycles. Am not a military man but I have studied military science and I do know we can do much better and sacrifice less human beings in containing this insecurity bur it’s not the responsibility of the federal government alone, all institutions and agencies, constituencies must be dragged into  this matter. Traditional rulers, the religious leaders, because many of these criminals go to church, they go to mosque to go and pray. What kind of preachment is going on there? Not prosperity preaching, this will be year of breakthrough, who said so? It didn’t happen  last year and two, three years ago, how do you know? There are more serious issues to face in this country and we must take ourselves very seriously.

Ques: Prof. the PIB is back,  how sure are we that this time around it will conclude the circle, go round and then successfully passed.

Ans:Well, it’s been out for decades now, for a long time, I can speak for the NASS, we have a little more than two thirds if am not mistaken of new members who have come in there with a zeal and commitment to make a difference, it is evident when you look at the debates on the floor, you look at the courage with which they speak, I am APC, but I have not chide away from having to criticize the federal government when I think it is not doing well. I have not chide away and there are many more like that there. Many of them understand that if we do not take appropriate action now, the institutional engineering, community engineering, social engineering, particularly in the oil sector, the ENDSARS will be just a footnote for a bigger thing that can happen, I am in basic education and I keep telling them, we have almost fifty million children out of school, they did not participate in the ENDSARS, but that is a large community of people that are being neglected and are very available for criminals to recruit. So, I think this time we have the courage, yesterday, we had the debate on the floor and the debate was very progressive, and for someone like me from the Nigeria Delta, I decide not to contribute, let others speak to it and let’s see if there is a resonance between what their thoughts are and our thoughts. I will take one, the issue of host communities, unless somebody who has not been to the Nigeria Delta at all, will sit in Abuja and will be talking all kinds of things. Most of them are devastated, they are ruined, their lives but you see, the responsibility, the PIB will help us significantly because now they are recognize and their entitlements are recognized and that the resources should go to the host community, not to a governor who will direct it to a high way to the airport, that commitment that am seeing is a major development. But more importantly, is that we must have these conversations not just in Abuja, but in the communities, constituencies where the major actors operates. The unions, NUPENG, PENGASAN and others, the oil producing companies, the marketers including down and upstream, the communities they are,  and the political and traditional structures there. We must have an opportunity to have a frank discussion and make commitment to one another and once that takes place, you will see that there will be a different approach to getting this bill passed and implemented. Because passing it is one, implementing it properly is another thing.

Ques: How would you react to the decision of the federal government to import fuel from Niger Republic?

Ans:Nigeria keep doing things that are so ridiculous that I do not understand. You have refineries that are not working, we have spend billions of billionaires from turn around maintenance. They turn nothing around, they only turn a few dollars around between them and the people giving them the contracts. We have technology for modular refinery, they just commissioned one, we have new ways, we have a bitumen field in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Edo. I was once chairman bitumen implementation committee, we are not even doing much in that area, yes, bitumen will give you products that sells less than normal barrel because the major product of it is bitumen which we use to make roads, petroleum in it is a bye product. We are not doing much there, we are not getting people who wants to invest, because I was in Obasanjo’s administration, and they awarded about fifteen licenses for people to build refineries, they started asking for feedstock even before they imported one pint and Obasanjo said, I know the game you are playing, you want to build refinery as an excuse to get access to petrol which you will sell and store the money there. There is a whole body of contradictions, that Nigeria, an OPEC member, one of the largest in the world,  is now importing from Niger is it not the same Niger that we are building a high way to? What I believe is that at some points in our history, God has to take some action against some people who seem to have been committed directly or indirectly to making life impossible for Nigerians. Our problems in this country is created by people we know and we can list them and because of the level of inpunity, you can do anything in this country and get away with it. They keep recycling mediocrity, irresponsibility, poor leadership, poor governance, and adult deliquency, it is not only children that are deliquent now , where do we go with this kind of situation?

Q: Prof. you are from the Niger Delta, and Niger Deltans are not happy that they can’t control what is on their land whereas in Zamfara State, the state is taking care of their resources. How would you react to this?

Ans: The matter is in court, the issue is on the front burner now. The constitution is clear, that all minerals, solid, liquid, gaseous under and above the earth of the federal republic of Nigeria belongs to the federal government. Infact at one time when Kanu Agabi was minister for Solid Mineral, he directed states to abolish ministries of solid minerals, that they have no right. He is my good friend, but he was not correct there. The states are not claiming they own it but you as federal, you need people to work the state level. If you are going to deal with illegal minners, you need people who know where they are on ground. Now, you find a situation where, in Zamfara, they played some funny games, I think what was happening was that, some states have done that. They established buying centers, they said, you are producing these things illegally,  instead of smuggling it across the border or selling it to people who use money to buy weapons to come and fund terrorists, sell it to us, we will package it and then sell. Now how that is translated into, rather than going through the ministry of solid minerals to say we have done this, this is what we have spent, you take the product, you handle and process it and give us back what we have done. Just like states fix roads and they tell the federal government this is what we have done, they check the road, they see, they refund. After all a governor got almost billions recently for fixing roads. In the Niger Delta, that has been one of the critical issues but we are not restricting the demands to Niger Delta, we are talking about general resource control and the federal government can collect taxes, levies, royalties, they can go into partnership. If you are running a true federal system, the federation in Abuja is obviously too big and it is getting bigger by the day, that is the agencies that control our lives in everything we do. That is not a proper federal system, that is why it is inefficient, they should go and read history, why did the Oyo empire collapse, why did Mali empire, even the Benin empire. Eware the great, the first one, conquered 201 towns, the Benin empire streched up to Ida, now, his seat, his palace is in Benin City, how is he going to control them, same thing happened in these empires. You stretch your power and conquer everywhere, now, when it comes to control, you can’t. Now revolt begins one after the other combined with other problems and you find yourself unable to remain. So the federal government must listen to the rumblings, must engage the stakeholders and begin again to talk properly about resource control. There are countries to learn from, Canada is a good example that you can see how even the province of Regiana control it’s own recourses, Sastachawa control it’s own recourses, but the way they tax them, the federal revenue is almost as good as the one  we are doing here. You put provincial sales tax, general sales task plus you pay taxes at the pump, you pay it every where. There are ways in which the federal government can raise it’s revenue and if it reduces it’s responsibilities, it will have enough to manage it’s own interests.

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Ques: What is your take on zoning in the APC?

Ans: given the inbalances in the country resource wise, populatiin wise, access to have control of security apparatuses and so on, when a party does not have zonning, then you turn into a free for all. The purpose of zoning is to give the party the opportunity to ensure that every part, just like we have federal character. If we are going to jettison zonning, we should jettison federal character. In any case, I am not seeing one MDA that is adhering to federal character. If the place was headed by an Igbo man, he will recruit all Igbos. If it is Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, whatever, Edo, you will see it when they bring their nominal roll, you will see one state having 800 staffs, some zero, and the head is not making any effort to rectify it. So this is a big problem. I believe that zonning is important. The zonning was north and south. Within the south for example, you have the south-soith, south-west, south-east. If you look at the political balances, there are some zones that have not held that position at all so what we expect is to say, why don’t we engage this zone in conversation to make sure that, they either tell us we don’t think we are interested or we will prefer this position and this position or please we think it’s our turn, let’s negotiate the other part. I think that what he was basically trying to say is that this party has a zonning principle but many people are trying to subvert that principle. Now if they are going to subvert it, they have to come up with cogent reasons, they have to give us reasons say.. look we think that this time in our national development, we should not even think about zonning because we have covid, there is ENDSARS. You know, people go to ridiculous argument saying..oh, Yaradua did one term before it went to the south south so the north will take it back and do the other one term, some say they want to bring Jonathan in, you know all kinds of ridiculous, infantile, opportunistic, wicked undemocratic permutations are going on. Maybe it’s normal in politics, particularly in the developing world but I think when the time comes, when the come comes to become, we shall know who is who as Mbadiwe will say.

Q: Now, you mentioned Jonathan, I was going there, because on his birthday, not too long ago, I think last week APC governors paid him a visit and some political analysts are beginning to dissect and they read meanings into it. Again, the Igbos too are struggling and just like you have always known, they say it’s their time in 2023, the northern caucuses so to speak, some northern circle have also thrown their weights behind that agitation. To you Prof., I know you are well read, and you have been around for a while, tell me, do you support the Igbo presidency, what I mean is Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction?

Hon. Julius: Now you are talking. Am totally oppose to Igbo presidency, because the man is going to run Nigeria. I support somebody who comes from the Soutt-east of the country because they have not had the opportunity to hold that position to say yes. But the south Easterners must get their ass together. If they produce fifty candidates they will run themselves down. It’s a bona-party situation where the top condendants fight themselves to a stand still and somebody who was standing by takes the crown. If they do not present an agenda for Nigeria, if they do not present a relatively unified front and provide commitment to pursue and continue with project Nigeria in a way that all parts of this country will feel safe, they will enjoy  economic prosperity, social security, then other zones will take advantage of them. For me, those who jeeo talking of Igbo presidency, they scare other people away, why do they call it Igbo presidency? Are they going to change it to villa of Igbo presidency? No it’s a president coming from the south east of Nigeria who happens to be Igbo, maybe, but it could be a non-Igbo from the south East, well, they are all Igbos but there are minorities there too who try to stand on their own identity but remember, there are also Igbos in Rivers which is in the South-South. So for me, I think they have every right, every democratic right under the constitution, under the zonning principles of the leading parties and the minority parties to aspire for that position. Now the conversation can begin from there. But it is the way your masquerade dances that it attracts others and tell those masquerades that are not dancing well to leave the dance floor but if your main masquerade is dancing like somebody with a broken leg, people will shift and begin to look at the small masquerade that is dancing well.

Q: Now, about Jonathan, some people are really..I mean, of late he has been hopnubbing with the president, and some people are beginning to think that hey! He still has one shot left, can you come back or something? What advice will you give to him?

Hon. Julius: I will tell him to be very careful so that the political bounce he got from conceeding the election, he didn’t behave like Trump. And the respect he has from those who worked with him, some of them and those who love him should not be squandered on the altar of political opportunism and political greed. He should also be very careful not to allow himself to be used as a sacrificial lamb, as a negotiating tool to carry out other programs that he is not. If he is interested and he has a right to be interested, the constitution does not say he cannot. The starting point is not hup nobbing with the president, the starting point is to set up a strong tactical team to explore his chances and then to go on a consultation, now what he is trying to do now, is if he goes to the the consultation, he will be telling them, oh, I have talked to Buhari and it seems to be good, any person who takes that kind of message to anybody has no message. If thesame Buhari that we have seen so far, those who are reading his body language, I don’t know how they read it, because I have not seen the body language saying that it is Jonathan that he is going to present. But Jonathan should also remember that under his administration, there were so many contradictions he didn’t address. He was president in this country, the East-West road is still not fixed, till today, people are dying, and being kidnapped. He was president in this country, there was no single improvement in the Niger-Delta, in the lives of the people, in infrastructure, in security, in education, you name it. So how is he going to explain it now to his own people, that oh, I didn’t have time for four years, that is not going to be easy for him and if your people at home have questions then those who are carrying you outside have to think twice because a politician strength starts from his home base. But he is free to consult, he is free to anchor his interest, it means he have to leave PDP and come to APC, there are those who are going to work heavily against him now from PDP, then those who have interest now in APC, will work against him because they know he is coming to spoil their garri. He should consider all of these but I will advise him as a friend of before before to take it easy, carry out wide, spread consultation, set up a tactical team to explore his chances before making the plans otherwise, there are many things he can do as the former president, as somebody who stood for peace, who didn’t want violence, who wanted to preserve the unity of this country, oh my God! There are so many things he can do, make himself a statesman and somebody who will rely less on politics and more on his capabilities.

Ques: What message of hope do you have for Nigerians and to your constituents in this trying times as their representative?

Ans:The message of hope is that contrary to those who are saying Nigeria is a failed state, it is not. They should go and read the definition of a failed state, when you see it, you will know it. They should look at Lyberia before the peace, they should look at Somalia, they should look at South Sudan then they will know what a failed state is. So we are lucky that inspite of our, sometimes misdirected permutations, impunity and careless actions, that we still have a Nigeria.  Two, we still have the resources, the intellect, the capacity in this country to build this country into the Nigeria of our dreams. I want to end by saying that a bigger hope comes from the ENDSARS protest. Contrary to the way the government is handling it, it is the wrong way. They are making heroes out of boys we didn’t know we’re part of the ENDSARS. When the ENDSARS ended, I didn’t know that there was anybody called Peter Eremosele, that he even took part in it. But today, they have made him a national icon, an international hereo. That is not the way to handle post conflict reconciliation. But more importantly, that young people, without coming to old guards like us, those of us who were in Adeko, who were in exile, who did students union, battles in this country, did ASUU battles in this country, without coming to us, organized themselves, raised money, could communicate across the country, brought out their issues and  engaged the system. And when they saw that hoodlums who are products of bad governance, bad leadership, wicked leadership were taking over, they stepped back because that was not their own strategy. There is hope in that initial constituency. But the hoodlums also have demonstrated to Nigerians how angry they are and how dangerous they can be. It is now the duty of the state to set up a system, a framework for studying what happened properly, producing a proper analytical report, not the kind of bureaucratic report of eighty pages and there is nothing in there, but people who will go in and set up priorities for addressing those issues to make sure they don’t come again. You can not do it by intimidation, you cannot do it by harrasment, you cannot do it by freezing their account, how much is in their account.

Q: So Prof. you don’t support what the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, the brig bat between him and the CNA

Hon. Julius: He is wasting his time, that is not the battle. That is a distraction. His answer should be one thing. You were not here, look at what we are doing to contain the issue to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. All these brig bat, fifteen sins of CNN is not getting us anywhere.

Q: So would you advise him to stop because CNN is turning and turning and bringing more and more…

Hon. Julius: When CNN did that, all he needed is that, look, you were not even at the scene. Two, we understand why this happened and we are taking appropriate steps to resolve those issues, it’s a Nigerian problem and we will deal with it ourselves.

Ques: Yesterday, the minister of works, former governor of Lagos State cautioned the APC Chieftains and infact the APC family not to go against zoning as it were because there was zoning and you are an APC member. How would you react to that towards 2023 because they are saying that they are jettison zonning as it were. So do you think it should be thrown open? What was the agreement? 

Ans: given the inbalances in the country resource wise, population wise, access to have control of security apparatuses and so on, when a party does not have zonning, then you turn into a free for all. The purpose of zoning is to give the party the opportunity to ensure that every part, just like we have federal character. If we are going to jettison zonning, we should jettison federal character. In any case, I am not seeing one MDA that is adhering to federal character. If the place was headed by an Igbo man, he will recruit all Igbos. If it is Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, whatever, Edo, you will see it when they bring their nominal roll, you will see one state having 800 staffs, some zero, and the head is not making any effort to rectify it. So this is a big problem. I believe that zonning is important. The zonning was north and south. Within the south for example, you have the south-soith, south-west, south-east. If you look at the political balances, there are some zones that have not held that position at all so what we expect is to say, why don’t we engage this zone in conversation to make sure that, they either tell us we don’t think we are interested or we will prefer this position and this position or please we think it’s our turn, let’s negotiate the other part. I think that what he was basically trying to say is that this party has a zonning principle but many people are trying to subvert that principle. Now if they are going to subvert it, they have to come up with cogent reasons, they have to give us reasons say.. look we think that this time in our national development, we should not even think about zonning because we have covid, there is ENDSARS. You know, people go to ridiculous argument saying..oh, Yaradua did one term before it went to the south south so the north will take it back and do the other one term, some say they want to bring Jonathan in, you know all kinds of ridiculous, infantile, opportunistic, wicked undemocratic permutations are going on. Maybe it’s normal in politics, particularly in the developing world but I think when the time comes, when the come comes to become, we shall know who is who as Mbadiwe will say. 

Ques: Now, you mentioned Jonathan, I was going there, because on his birthday, not too long ago, I think last week APC governors paid him a visit and some political analysts are beginning to dissect and they read meanings into it. Again, the Igbos too are struggling and just like you have always known, they say it’s their time in 2023, the northern caucuses so to speak, some northern circle have also thrown their weights behind that agitation. To you Prof., I know you are well read, and you have been around for a while, tell me, do you support the Igbo presidency, what I mean is Nigeria’s president of Igbo extraction? 

Ans:Now you are talking. Am totally oppose to Igbo presidency, because the man is going to run Nigeria. I support somebody who comes from the Soutt-east of the country because they have not had the opportunity to hold that position to say yes. But the South Easterners must get their ass together. If they produce fifty candidates they will run themselves down. It’s a bona-party situation where the top condendants fight themselves to a stand still and somebody who was standing by takes the crown. If they do not present an agenda for Nigeria, if they do not present a relatively unified front and provide commitment to pursue and continue with project Nigeria in a way that all parts of this country will feel safe, they will enjoy  economic prosperity, social security, then other zones will take advantage of them. For me, those who jeeo talking of Igbo presidency, they scare other people away, why do they call it Igbo presidency? Are they going to change it to villa of Igbo presidency? No it’s a president coming from the south east of Nigeria who happens to be Igbo, maybe, but it could be a non-Igbo from the south East, well, they are all Igbos but there are minorities there too who try to stand on their own identity but remember, there are also Igbos in Rivers which is in the South-South. So for me, I think they have every right, every democratic right under the constitution, under the zonning principles of the leading parties and the minority parties to aspire for that position. Now the conversation can begin from there. But it is the way your masquerade dances that it attracts others and tell those masquerades that are not dancing well to leave the dance floor but if your main masquerade is dancing like somebody with a broken leg, people will shift and begin to look at the small masquerade that is dancing well. 

Ques: Now, about Jonathan, some people are really..I mean, of late he has been hopnubbing with the president, and some people are beginning to think that hey! He still has one shot left, can you come back or something? What advice will you give to him?

Ans:I will tell him to be very careful so that the political bounce he got from conceeding the election, he didn’t behave like Trump. And the respect he has from those who worked with him, some of them and those who love him should not be squandered on the altar of political opportunism and political greed. He should also be very careful not to allow himself to be used as a sacrificial lamb, as a negotiating tool to carry out other programs that he is not. If he is interested and he has a right to be interested, the constitution does not say he cannot. The starting point is not hup nobbing with the president, the starting point is to set up a strong tactical team to explore his chances and then to go on a consultation, now what he is trying to do now, is if he goes to the the consultation, he will be telling them, oh, I have talked to Buhari and it seems to be good, any person who takes that kind of message to anybody has no message. If thesame Buhari that we have seen so far, those who are reading his body language, I don’t know how they read it, because I have not seen the body language saying that it is Jonathan that he is going to present. But Jonathan should also remember that under his administration, there were so many contradictions he didn’t address. He was president in this country, the East-West road is still not fixed, till today, people are dying, and being kidnapped. He was president in this country, there was no single improvement in the Niger-Delta, in the lives of the people, in infrastructure, in security, in education, you name it. So how is he going to explain it now to his own people, that oh, I didn’t have time for four years, that is not going to be easy for him and if your people at home have questions then those who are carrying you outside have to think twice because a politician strength starts from his home base. But he is free to consult, he is free to anchor his interest, it means he have to leave PDP and come to APC, there are those who are going to work heavily against him now from PDP, then those who have interest now in APC, will work against him because they know he is coming to spoil their garri. He should consider all of these but I will advise him as a friend of before before to take it easy, carry out wide, spread consultation, set up a tactical team to explore his chances before making the plans otherwise, there are many things he can do as the former president, as somebody who stood for peace, who didn’t want violence, who wanted to preserve the unity of this country, oh my God! There are so many things he can do, make himself a statesman and somebody who will rely less on politics and more on his capabilities. 

Ques: What message of hope do you have for Nigerians and to your constituents in this trying times as their representative? 

Ans: The message of hope is that contrary to those who are saying Nigeria is a failed state, it is not. They should go and read the definition of a failed state, when you see it, you will know it. They should look at Lyberia before the peace, they should look at Somalia, they should look at South Sudan then they will know what a failed state is. So we are lucky that inspite of our, sometimes misdirected permutations, impunity and careless actions, that we still have a Nigeria.  Two, we still have the resources, the intellect, the capacity in this country to build this country into the Nigeria of our dreams. I want to end by saying that a bigger hope comes from the ENDSARS protest. Contrary to the way the government is handling it, it is the wrong way. They are making heroes out of boys we didn’t know we’re part of the ENDSARS. When the ENDSARS ended, I didn’t know that there was anybody called Peter Eremosele, that he even took part in it. But today, they have made him a national icon, an international hereo. That is not the way to handle post conflict reconciliation. But more importantly, that young people, without coming to old guards like us, those of us who were in Adeko, who were in exile, who did students union, battles in this country, did ASUU battles in this country, without coming to us, organized themselves, raised money, could communicate across the country, brought out their issues and  engaged the system. And when they saw that hoodlums who are products of bad governance, bad leadership, wicked leadership were taking over, they stepped back because that was not their own strategy. There is hope in that initial constituency. But the hoodlums also have demonstrated to Nigerians how angry they are and how dangerous they can be. It is now the duty of the state to set up a system, a framework for studying what happened properly, producing a proper analytical report, not the kind of bureaucratic report of eighty pages and there is nothing in there, but people who will go in and set up priorities for addressing those issues to make sure they don’t come again. You can not do it by intimidation, you cannot do it by harrasment, you cannot do it by freezing their account, how much is in their account. 

Ques: So Prof. you don’t support what the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, the altercation between him and the CNN 

Ans:He is wasting his time, that is not the battle. That is a distraction. His answer should be one thing. You were not here, look at what we are doing to contain the issue to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. All these 15 sins of CNN is not getting us anywhere. 

Ques: So would you advise him to stop because CNN is turning and turning and bringing more and more…

Ans: When CNN did that, all he needed is that, look, you were not even at the scene. Two, we understand why this happened and we are taking appropriate steps to resolve those issues, it’s a Nigerian problem and we will deal with it ourselves.

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