17 April 2018

Nigeria: 'Buhari's Second Term Bid Smacks of Obsession With Power'

interview

Port Harcourt — National Chairman of Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and former presidential candidate, Ambrose Owuru, says President Muhammadu Buhari's declaration of intention to seek a second term in office after three years of "abysmal performance" smacks of sheer political greed and obsession with power. He told KELVIN EBIRI in Port Harcourt that in a free and fair election, the President does not stand any chance of winning, but may want to rely on manipulative tactics to rig.

What is your reaction to President Buhari reelection bid?

We can only wish him well. Being a citizen of Nigeria and the incumbent president, he has the right to seek reelection. It is left for Nigerians to make a choice. At present, the country is at crossroads and Nigerians are beginning to rethink and worry about the kind of leadership they want. This is where the issue of Buhari seeking a second term will be interrogated. The electorate may choose to vote for a different leader. He is one of the options.

What is your assessment of Buhari's government since 2015?

I think he has done his best. We should not forget that President Buhari didn't promise us heaven on earth, he only emphasised on fighting corruption and insecurity. I don't think he promised much on the economy, but what Nigeria need most is someone that will address the economy now. It is left for Mr. President to explain to Nigerians what he has achieved since he assumed office.

But for our party's assessment of him, there is more to be done and there are areas he hasn't touched. And unfortunately, he hasn't even formulated policies in the areas he has touched. We said it from the beginning that it is not possible to fight corruption without a legal framework. He relied on the courts and the existing system, which are not also free from corruption. You cannot fight corruption with a corrupt system.

He also inherited the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) that has played more to the gallery, media trial of suspects and others. Imagine having a police-populated EFCC that is even corrupt that he wants to depend on to fight corruption? So, he has been deceived if he was relying on the court and EFCC. You cannot fight corruption depending on old judges, who were planted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He should have announced the restructuring of the police or create a new police from the beginning.

The EFCC was a creation of the previous administration based on its political objectives. After coming to power, he should have restructured that organisation and made it more military and serious as against a situation where you have an EFCC comprising of junior police officers, who are only answerable to their superiors and who know how to manipulate corrupt cases.

If one may ask, how much has EFCC recovered as loots? Recently we heard that the Minister of Finance wrote EFCC to explain where the recovered monies are and the Commission will not even respond.

We have police prosecutors who are busy charging people without a concrete evidence. They are not even looking forward to conviction and once they are settled, the case remains in court. The police made Buhari give Nigerians false hope. This is a time we need to interrogate these areas. Nigerians are now wiser. This administration has been walking on a blind alley. He promised to fight corruption and insecurity but he must have seen that the challenges are more than he thought.

When the All Progressives Congress (APC) government came in 2015, Nigeria was dealing with Boko Haram insurgency, now, we are dealing with armed herdsmen crisis and it appears Buhari is not best positioned to address these issues frontally. He has been dodging these issues instead of confronting it. He doesn't even talk to Nigerians. I don't know how a leader would want to operate in a military fashion?

He keeps quiet and expects things to work. He expects people to behave. We need a proactive leader, who knows what the people feel and how to tackle them. Up until now I have not heard any pronouncement from the president on the armed herdsmen issue except that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) should do this and the Chief of Army Staff should do that. There have not been concerted efforts in talking to affected communities and their leaders. These things have some religious coloration.

They have made some inroad into agriculture, but not mechanised agriculture. The 'cattle colonies' the government is talking about should not be for cow, but agriculture.I don't know the number of jobs his government has created, but we have the estimate number of people that are unemployed. There is no concerted effort or policy on free education, free healthcare. The government has not even articulated it. The government is not addressing issues and this is what is making people desperate in this country.

Why do you say Nigeria is at crossroads?

What is left? An American military general recently said Boko Haram is the most dangerous terror group that kill both military and police at will. You have people who come and cart away hundreds of children in buses, yet the Chief of Army and security chiefs are still in place and they are not explaining to us how this was possible. This can only happen in Nigeria, where people are not resigning or being sacked. Nobody is answering any question; nobody is answering anybody. We have come to the point where I will say we are at the crossroads. The primary purpose of government is to provide security and welfare. If welfare and security are not being addressed, what is the purpose of government?

What are the chances of the ruling party retaining power in 2019 with Buhari as its candidate?

In a free and fair election, APC doesn't stand any chance, not when they have all declared each other thieves. The ruling party and the major opposition PDP are the same. They don't stand the chance of winning election but they can manipulate vote. APC wants to rely on the PDP manipulative tactics to rig the next elections. The party is not bothered about what it has achieved but only bothered about how it will use government machinery to perpetuate itself in office.

Do you see APC upsetting the political equation in the South-South region, which is predominantly PDP?

It is unfortunate that the Niger Delta region is now in the opposition at the national level. Our people have always had a one-way track in terms of aligning with the centre. APC is presently in Edo State. But what you see in the South-South is not about our people; it is about the kind of politicians we have. Politicians that have refused to play real politics, they have refused to rally the people for the good of the region and its citizens. They are what I call 'people's boys'. They are not men of their own. They have never articulated ideas of their own. What you will see if anything will happen is that most of them, like the Governor River State, Nyesom Wike, are likely to defect to APC. They don't mind crossing over to the opposition if they are not getting a fair deal in PDP.

Most of them who even followed former President Goodluck Jonathan abandoned him the moment he lost the 2015 election. You cannot say that Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and former President Jonathan are in the same ship today. The reason why Governor Wike is shouting is because his greatest political enemy is too close to Buhari. This is the kind of South- South you have. Have you heard about resource control lately?

Considering Mr. President's age and health status, do you think he is fit to rule beyond 2019?

I thought he would have reviewed this area considering that the whole world saw him so sick. And for over four months he was away from his country and God has blessed him, saved his life and brought him back. I think sometimes we don't listen. See, when you are in power, you need to be a good leader like former President of South Africa, Dr. Nelson Mandela to be able to lead and also direct your followers. Most of our leaders allow their mind to be manipulated by people around them, by thinking negatively. They do not think about the people. If you are thinking of the people after this tenure you will let them know I have played my role and with the way things are I need to have my rest. I think he has achieved one thing. He has proved a point; he has been elected a civilian president after he was thrown out of office via a coup. I think the desire to correct that impression must have been the driving force behind his quest for the presidency. I don't think he came to rule well.

How would you describe his second term bid?

It is sheer obsession. It was this same obsession that brought him back to power after he was overthrown as Military Head of State in 1985 and the same thing with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In the opposition some of us put in our best to prove that we can be reckoned with based on our opinion and strong views. People never followed Buhari because of his opinion. What we all conceded to him was that as a military ruler he had some measure of integrity and we felt he will restore some sanity. So, Nigeria needed somebody to restore some measure of sanity just at the point he became president and that is why I said he has done his best. His best was to restore sanity. My concern is that halfway down the line he lost it. Corruption and insecurity have grown worse under him. The first three months of his government scared people but after that when he couldn't make up his mind on ministers and all that, Nigerians began to see his weakness.

Do you foresee any emergence of political alliance that could defeat the incumbent in 2019?

A lot of people are eager to come up and see what they can do to save this country. But we need to get people who will fund this movement. In other clime, it is not about money; it is the people's anger. It is the fact that votes must count; the determination to see a change is what counts. We will see how we will begin to do our own bit. We will not rest until we see people think differently.

What do you think additional four years of Buhari's presidency portends for the country?

His second coming has shown that he is not the same Buhari that we know and I don't know the magic he wants to perform. Nigerians have come to understand that the mystery about him is no more. I think he is in a position to exercise self-control that this country may have problems, if he continues in power. He has not been able to hold back Boko Haram and may not be able to hold back other groups. He couldn't even touch the armed herdsmen. The rate of crime is getting bloodier. The kind of corruption you see is getting a bit more organised. Buhari does not feel anything. We are worse off now.

APC appears resolved to restructure the country, what do you think of it?

Whoever raises that issue of restructuring did so to divert attention. I don't think the party even knows what restructuring is. It merely wants to create some measure of relevance. The ruling party is never serious about restructuring Nigeria. You can't restructure Nigeria on the pages of newspapers. The call for restructuring is borne out of anger of the people on basis that there is no welfare and security. The government should go back to the books. The government does not care so long as there is meal on their table. Does the unemployed have what to eat? Insecurity has killed our industries. APC did not want to restructure but because they know that Nigerians will make it an issue they want to own the process by claiming they are the ones who want to restructure Nigeria.

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