Former Minister of State for Finance, Alhaji Abu Gidado, in this interview with ANDY ASEMOTA blamed the political class for failing the country. He also spoke on other national issues.
What is your take on 2016 budget padding saga?
Well, my view is based really on moral consideration. I don’t think it right that some sections of the budget presented before National Assembly are budget padded in billions. I think it is wrong.
I think there is a moral question there. Mr. President may not implement a lot of the budget because, one; the padded budget wasn’t the budget he submitted to the National Assembly and two, this padding as far as I see it is immoral and wrong.
There was a report which allegedly indicated former President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife and some South South leaders over the activities of Niger Delta Avengers. Does such revelation mean anything to you?
In the first place, government is in a much better position to know what is happening in the country. My only observation is that there has to be evidence that directly or indirectly indicate that some of the leadership in those areas may be fueling this insurgency. So, that may be the reason why the former President and some leaders in that part of Nigeria are been questioned.
What do you think should be the way out?
You see, either you believe in Nigeria and participate in its affairs or you are not interested and therefore resort to this sort of behavior. But the issue is, if you believe in the country and take for example, the contribution of revenue from non-oil sector in this month and the last two months, oil was very secondary in the Internally Generated revenue (IGR). Oil contributed one third.
I have said that the whole oil industry was sabotaged but because of good administration of our IGR, this country has experienced unprecedented revenue from non-oil sector than what it used to be previously. And I think it is a credit to this government.
The present administrator got into office largely on its promise to check corruption in the country. What is your take on its anti-corruption fight so far?
It is a very serious thing that the government must do. One, to establish moral decency in public affairs, and two, to deal with those involved, after all, if you look at the corruption in this country, a lot of it shows political leadership has really failed, If you look at the size and volume of corruption. I don’t think there is any country in the contemporary would where a
country was raped, its resources taking away, hidden in other countries for that matter and nothing happened. So, as a government, you have to move in and correct this.
Giving that political leadership has failed Nigeria in terms of corruption, what is your advice to PMB on how to remedy the situation?
Mr. President is already on the right track, trying to recover the public funds that were robbed and to establish a culture of transparency and accountability. So, he is already on the right track; we will only pray for him to succeed.
One of those in Nigeria’s political leadership undergoing investigation and trial over alleged corrupt acts is the Senate President. Do you share the opinion that he should resign to clear all doubts of interference in the cases against him?
Well, you see, even those who are in the lower chambers, we refer to them as honourables. The moment you are stained seriously in your public affairs as an officer, you should sign off, resign and face the court to prove your innocence. That is why I said political leadership has failed Nigeria. Look at what is happening at the senate. Look at the leadership there. Look at the leaders at the National Assembly; where is decency?
Still on the anti-corruption fight, not long ago, former President Olusegun Obasanjo advised that PMB should not spare any effort to remove Saraki from office following the litany of cases against the senate president. Do you subscribe to that advice?
You see, Saraki is now number three in the hierarchy of public officers in this country. You cannot have double standard. If a leader on his own and as long as he accepts himself as a leader is accused of wrong doing in his public office, he should resign honourably.
You can’t spare him and think that you will deal with other junior persons in the country for any offence. But if you deal with anybody justly and rightly, you are trying to establish and inculcate a sense of honesty, integrity and high transparency in public office.
With the level of harsh economic reality in the country, what do you think the next few years will bring?
This country was literally destroyed; there was war, there is still a raging war and there was total insecurity. To establish normalcy has to take time because of the previous atmosphere of the insecurity and uncertainty. It must take some time to re-establish law and order in the
country. People must be patient and if people are free to do their day to day activities as they are doing, the economy will bounce back. If you deal with the situation of insurgency anywhere, the government will be in position to re-establish the country and get reward. As I have said, the IGR in the last two to three months is unprecedented because of the good administration of IGR.
As a leader of thought in the North, what is your view on the concepts of restructuring and resource control which is part of the current agitation in the Niger Delta?
I thought resources are for the country and therefore the country should establish laws to govern its resources from time to time to meet the demands of any situation. So, it is not an issue that, once you establish, it does not change; things could change and circumstances could change and therefore, the people will expect the government to respond to the dictates of that situation.
For example, this oil, I believe oil is in abundance in Nigeria. There is this Chad basin oil now, Lagos got oil recently and there is gas in Bauchi. You see, you cannot make hard and fast rule on this so-called resource control. It keeps changing with the dictates of the demands of the country.
Looking at the socio-economic mood in the country, what is your advice to PMB?
The indications are there that Mr. President is quite aware of the scarcity prevailing in the country. Positive efforts are being made, for example, to develop rice production in the country. Now, Kebbi State, Niger State and even Kano State have sprung up into serious agriculture to produce food for this country. The other thing I have heard, but I am not sure it is true, is that the president is looking at the ways and means to import bulk food into the country.
What is the hope that PMB will be able to meet the huge expectations of Nigerians?
Nigerians had very hard times in yester years and they decisively voted for Buhari. We expect as God said, in our religion, He has created human beings with urgent urge for good things and in the case of Nigerians there are huge expectations without adequately looking at what was the background of this country before Buhari came in. They expect Buhari to suddenly spring up with the solutions of all their problems but many of them to fail to realize that in the first place, Buhari did not inherited a normal country but a country razed by war; 80 % it, because almost the whole North was declared a war zone with a raging war in the North East and some parts of the country for quite a number of years.