Chairman, House Committee on Cooperation in Africa/NEPAD Hon. Abubakar Momoh represents Etsako East/West/Central Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he blames the on-going violence in Edo State on desperate politicians. He also speaks on various topical national and continental issues.
The impending gubernatorial poll in Edo Stateis experiencing some violence that has led to the killing of innocent souls. What is really happening there?
To my own understanding, I think somebody somewhere is getting desperate to take over the reins of governance. But such persons did not factor in the thinking of the common man and perhaps, realizing that it is a difficult task, such persons believe that the only way they can do it is to create confusion in the state and do certain things to distract and demoralize the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria( ACN).
When you mention the common man, are you saying that, the people of the Edo State are in support of the present government?
The thinking of the common man in Edo State today is that, comrade Oshiomole has done extremely well and because he has done that, he should be given a second chance to rule the state. This is the message from the highest to the lowest persons in the state.
Everybody from the traditional ruler to the common man is happy with the state of development in Edo State. Where people thought in the past it was impossible to develop is now being developed, in terms of roads, schools, hospital, water, the man has delivered.
How about insinuations that the governor has been running an exclusive government and he is a dictator?
Well, I am not part of the administration, so I will not be able to confirm if he is running a one man show.
But you are a member of the ACN.
As a member of the ACN, what is most paramount to me is that is the man doing what he was elected to do? Then how can he be running a man government? If it is a strategy for him to be able to transform the state, it is the common man that is the beneficiary. What we should be talking of is, is the man doing what he was elected to do? Was he elected to share money to people in the name carrying people along?
To me, if anybody is complaining of not being carried along, then they are people living in the past. In the sense that, in those days the moment you become a governor of a state, there are people who believe that it is an avenue for money to be shared.
At the end of the day, nothing is there to show to the electorate. My understanding is that if a man is doing what he was elected to do, and then he deserves to be given another chance to do better.
The governor recently raised alarm that some people are trying to kill him. With the assassination of his aide, who do you think is after the governor?
It’s not the issue of the governor raising alarm. Some people tried to assassinate him. Where a tipper lorry ran into the governor’s convoy and it heeded straight to the flag car of the governor, he was just lucky that he didn’t ride in the car. To say who is behind it is beyond me because I was not in the convoy.
This is election season and of course you hear different accusations Whenever anything happens, you are about to suspect because this thing did not happen yesterday or last month; it is when elections are close that it started happening. This is an accident that four people died; it could also have been the governor that day.
The voters’ registration was stopped in Edo State and from all indications, ACN supports the action. What is your take on this?
Hundred percent. The question you asked is whether the other parties are in support of this? We raised the alarm. The papers carried it where somebody was caught with the voter registration machine a week before the exercise started; he had started registering people.
Because our people are very vigilant, he was accosted and could not explain how he came about the machine’ He lied that he was an ad hoc staff of INEC. If you are an ad hoc staff, do you give out the materials before the exercise? We heard that the opposing party does not have anything to dislodge the ACN. And they believe that the only way they could perform magic is to register non-existent persons and remove from the register people that are already there.
Don’t forget that whether ACN or PDP still operate as one. We were once together; don’t forget that we all used to be PDP. But in the process the party realized that there is an attempt to manipulate the remission of voters exercise. The machines were already operating in secret places; these machines were supposed to be deployed to local government headquarters.
So when the party discovered what the opposition was doing, the governor with his background raised alarm and this brought everything to the public. Professor Jega quickly summoned a meeting; he knows that his reputation is at stake and because he has already seen what was happening.
He said that the exercise was suspended until after the elections before they can revisit the exercise. The ACN has nothing to lose because the same people who delivered the last time will come out and vote again.
The state is regarded as a PDP strong hold and that ACN being in power was just luck. They have vowed to take it back. What are the chances of your party?
Whoever is saying that Edo is PDP stronghold is day dreaming. I am not sure you got that number from the current members of the PDP. Up to 2007, you could say something like that, not today; PDP in Edo state today is a carcass. I was a foundation member of the PDP in the state and 90% of the people in ACN are from the PDP.
So it is only on that basis that you could say it is a stronghold. As I am talking to you, on a daily basis, local people are decamping to ACN. Let me tell you, whether Comrade Oshoimole campaigns today or not; if he decides to go to sleep, the people will still vote for him because they have tasted and seen real governance.
Right now there is no issue of some people writing out the votes. So votes will count in Edo this time as it did the last time. The people are ready and will vote him back.
Coming back to your committee, Cooperation in African. Are you worried about the image of Nigeria because of the insecurity?
Of course I am worried. West Africa is still finding it difficult to be united. This is because of our various backgrounds. Out of the sixteen countries in West Africa, it is only about five that were under the British colony and the rest are either francophone or the rest. That is the basis of disunity in West Africa.
When we come to discuss issues at the regional level, either group receives instructions from their home government. The English language speakers are just few. So language has been a major barrier.
That is why in our last workshop the institute of internal affairs, we suggested that countries including Nigeria make French language compulsory so that the average Nigeria can be able to speak French. So that when we come to the regional level and the franco-france person is speaking, we will be able to understand ourselves.
Nigeria is now regarded as insecure and corrupt. What is the committee doing to attract other African countries to Nigeria?
I am sure that the report of the probe should be the beginning of cleaning up the polity. We are watching and the House has done its own part. It is left for the executive to execute. It is left for the public to force the executive to implement the reports. Everybody should be talking including the press.
Aside workshops, what has your committee done to unite the African countries?
We have done quite a lot. There are very important agencies of integration which are under the committee on integration like the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa, NEPAD. These are two agencies that were not really active. We found that, the enabling act establishing them have been put to law. As I am talking to you, the two bills have reached their second reading.
Very soon we will conduct a public hearing on the two bills so that; the new partnership will be given a legal status. Through the minister of state, we have organized lots of workshops and seminars across the country to sensitize the public on the regional situations that are available in Africa and even the public can take advantage.
Until I came to the committee, I never knew that there was a bank called ABIT (ARICAN BANK FOR INVESTMENT AND DEVELOPMENT) so also African Development Bank; so many people don’t know that it has helped many West African countries to develop.
There have been several probes in the past with the reports being swept under the carpet. What are the assurances that these ones will be different?
If they are swept under the carpet, whose fault is it? It is the fault of the press and executive. The National Assembly has executed its responsibility; it is now the duty of the press to keep on drawing attention to the reports so that the executive can act on it.
Talking about the role of the National Assembly, there have been reports that resolutions from the National Assembly is not binding on the executive. Is anything being done to make sure that, resolutions are respected and acted upon?
I don’t really know who said that. It is the responsibility of the press to find out these things and report them to the world. The people should come out and condemn such statements because the National Assembly has its constitutional role to play. The probes we are doing is the result of Section 88 of the Constitution.
So anybody that says, motions are not binding, it is like saying the constitution is not binding. This is challenging the National Assembly and the entire country because another person can wake up tomorrow and tell you that the judiciary has no person to sentence anybody.
Immediately after the reports in the Villa, the special adviser to the president on National Assembly matters told Nigerians in a press conference that, the government will take a decision on the reports. It’s been almost four weeks, is it not enough for Nigerians to take action? I believe that it is ignorance that made the person make that statement. It is the National Assembly resolutions that made the president acting president then.
Going back to the state of insecurity, what suggestions can you make on ways to cope with the menace?
I am not a security expert. But I will suggest that we appeal to those perpetuating this violence. It is only those who did not witness the civil war that will yearn for another one.
Whatever is happening in terms of insecurity in Nigeria is politics. People are just killing innocent lives in the name of 2015. This country belongs to all of us, not to one region, tribe or religion. All these things are being sponsored in the name of politics.
Can you say that the National Assembly has afforded you the platform to fulfill the promises you made to your constituency?
Yes. I prepared my mind as a legislator and because my duty is to make laws. I have sponsored three bills that have passed through second reading. Four of my motions have also been passed. So I can beat my chest that in one year, I have done a lot as a legislator.
Secondly, I have seen to it that some projects have been captured in the budget. Personally I am training several people in the university aside from the official ones I will start soon.