Hon Abubakar Momoh was a former member of the Nigerian House of Representatives from Edo State and in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the politician stated that political parties in Nigeria lack ideologies as they are only interested in taking over power. He also spoke on some other issues.
Are you still with the PDP?
For now, I can’t tell you what the situation is, now everybody is looking for his daily bread. Active politics will start by the end of this year. So if you want to know more about my plans, wait until the end of this year, then you will know if I am still in the PDP or APC
Are you worried about what is happening in the PDP?
Generally, I am worried about what is happening in Nigeria today. Coming down to the PDP, I can say I am worried because we need a viable opposition that will be able to withstand the ruling party. In the absence of that, the ruling party can do and undo to oppress the common man. In view of that, I think what is happening in the PDP is not good for our polity. Even the APC that is ruling has lots of problems. It goes to show that we still lack political parties with ideologies. They are just there as instrument to acquire power. If you look at the APC today, you will see that, 60 percent of the people ruling Nigeria today are from the PDP. So, if you take a look at most of the governors from the north, they were all from the PDP, from Tambuwal to el-Rufai and the rest. Even at the executive level, is it Ameachi or Audu Ogbe? Apart from a few people like Fashola and Kayode who came from the ACN, most of them were from the PDP. That is why when I see them make statements, castigating the PDP, I feel like crying. These are the same people who ruined the system yesterday, today they are insulting the PDP. If you look at what is happening in Nigeria today, you will ask where we can get good people who will represent us. It is not as a result of political party but individuals.
Recently, el-Rufai was reported to have written the president on state of the nation, what is your take on this?
I cannot place that letter written by el-Rufai. It came out at a time when there was crises and Mr. President was sick. To me, bringing out a letter at that time suggests that, the person writing the letter has fears that, the president’s health could get far and he may not come back. So he wants to put things in paper so that, people will bear him witness that he pointed them out. But to me, he has spent over a year in power, why didn’t he write the letter? Why wait until the president is sick and there was a lot of doubt whether the president was alive or not? He himself has been berating the PDP, forgetting that what he is today is as a result of the PDP, when he and Obasanjo held sway. He destroyed people’s houses and the rest. It is this same person that wakes up to start saying things about people that made them. This person was in the system for years and suddenly they jump ship and now, they are insulting the system, which shows you the kind of human beings we have.
Are you worried with the way the economy is being run by this administration?
Everybody can answer that question, everybody knows the economy is on the floor. Even the president is worried about the economy. Nigerian economy is completely dead. I don’t know how this government plans to revive it. The priorities were missed from day one and the reason being that the president came with a high level of integrity. Because of his posture and body language, so many things went wrong. To the extent that, international financial organisations tightened their rope against him because he didn’t want to go by international economic structure, they tightened the rope. Coupled with the fact that he didn’t have good economic advisers because the moment he came up with a policy that people should not deposit dollars in domiciliary account, I knew Nigeria was gone. All those foreigners who had money had to find other means of siphoning their money out of Nigeria. That was what crippled us. We only hope that the white wash arrangement the ACBN is doing now can be sustained because my fear is that, if CBN cannot sustain it, the naira can crash up to 600. The only thing that can save the economy is if the CBN will have the dollar to continue to pump into the system. As bad as the situation was, people couldn’t sent their children to school or go out for treatment because there was no money. But I think there is a change of attitude since Mr. President went outside for treatment because you cannot be a leader, who fell sick and travel abroad for treatment while denying other people the opportunity to do the same. I am sure that he and those around him who feel there should be no foreign exchange for Nigerians regretted it and his recent sickness informed a lot of changes. You cannot say an average Nigerian cannot train his children outside when your children were all trained outside Nigeria and they are still there. You cannot say, people shouldn’t get dollars to go for treatment abroad when all the health facilities have collapsed. Go to Edo State today, there is no MRI machine in most hospitals. So if they don’t want people to travel outside for such things, then they have to fix the education system and health facilities.
What can government do to revive the economy?
It has gone beyond the stage where things can change overnight. The first thing is to diversify the economy. The Niger delta crises was the one that made the situation worse to the extent that, the little dollars we were getting to support the economy stopped coming. Who caused it? It was the same government because initially, Mr. President was not ready to dialogue with anybody. They were using forces, thinking they can deal with them the way they dealt with boko haram. It cannot work. Jonathan is from Niger delta, yet he bent backward and did some palliative things to the militants so they could allow him function peacefully. You, who is an outsider said, you want to use force on this people on their own land? It will not work. People said, leave Tompolo alone. The mere fact that Jonathan and Yaradua brought him in and made him relevant does not mean that they couldn’t use the army to capture him or kill him but they knew the consequences and the influence he has in the creeks. The man who granted amnesty to them is a Katsina man and so, Mr. President should have maintained the status quo. Diversification must not be by rhetorics but taking concrete steps to implement policies. We need to go back to production of crops in different zones like it used to be. There was cocoa in the west, the groundnut pyramid in the north and the rest. Awolowo’s free education was sponsored from proceeds of cocoa.
What we have today is central government, not federalism. We need to restructure so that every area can be harnessing their natural resources and a percentage be remitted to the center. Under the regional government of Tafawa Balewa, the west never knew whether the FG had anything to give them at the end of the month but today, every governor folds his hands, waiting for the FG. Look at what Lagos State is doing today. If they had been relying on the FG, the state would have been like a pit. But Tinubu, in his second term, charted a road map which Fashola, with his Midas touch, followed suit and today, Ambode is doing better things. Lagos will continue to get better because they have learnt to generate their internal revenue. This is better than sharing money every month and then, some of the funds missed on the way from Abuja to the state. That is what we hear, sometimes ecological funds will disappear. But if it is the state governors that generate their money and brought something to the center, places like the south-east will have been like another Taiwan because they are industrious. We saw what happened during the civil war.
The faceoff between the senate and comptroller general of the customs has also involved the Attorney general, what do you think of this?
The Custom CG has always been a controversial man, so there is no big deal. My take on this matter is that if you are given an assignment and you feel it is inferior to what you held before, you better reject it. The day Ahmed Ali accepted to be the CG customs, he was supposed to abide by the rules and regulation of the customs act. It is insulting to the organisation to see him in front of deputy CGs with Babanriga. So it means if a Yoruba man is appointed as CG, he will go and wear sokoto and cap. I expect Mr. President who appointed him to call the man to order. It is not about the senate, it is about doing the right thing. The extent to which the matter has dragged, it is either he accepts to wear his uniform or resign. The president is at fault because he allowed his men to create problems that is overheating the polity. Ahmed Ali is a colonel, he is not higher than Major General Hananiah who headed the FRSC. So, he should know that when he was appointed, he was a civilian, not in the military serving, therefore he has to abide by the rules of the customs.