Ray Morphy, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former special adviser to the Cross Rivers State governor. In this interview with some journalists, the former publisher and politician, who has been around the corridors of power at the national level since 1999, spoke on some national issues. CHIBUZO UKAIBE was there..
Your party, the APC will be celebrating two years in government vis-à-vis the promises that they gave us like security, remove unemployment and fight against insecurity. How has APC in implementing this promises?
I will start by saying that we are a people who often forget our history. About four years ago, Nigerians were living with their hearts in their hands or in mouth. We never knew what would happen next which was a clear illustration of the magnitude of insecurity in the country caused by boko haram. There were bomb blasts almost everywhere, these are things we saw. But today these things are history, we don’t have them anymore. So I can use that to illustrate to you that certainly, no matter how we want to deny the facts on the ground, the threat to the ordinary citizens and on the streets has abated immensely. The last few years of running this country was a piteous enterprise. I can recall the columns I wrote back in 2007. I talked about corruption and bad governance. The issue was the corruption of our morals, usurpation of the goodwill of the people as far back as 2007. My point is that Nigeria was in far much more worse state than the average man on the street knew; we were in deficit financing, we were running a high economic budget with very low out put and capital expenditure. Most of the projects we had under the budget for the last few years were never funded and we all know that. So the country was so bad that if you want to correct it, it would take a little bit of time to get the systems processed. That is my view regarding the ability of the current administration at the federal level to put things the way they ought to be kept.
I can tell you today that my state was not motorable. Anybody who knew Cross Rivers will know that for me to drive from Ogoja to Calabar I have to go to Ebonyi State, out of my state. In fact, there was no road to my state and most of those roads were federal roads and it is well known that Cross River is the largest state in southern Nigeria. But right now the road had been contracted to Julius Berger, to be rebuilt because the road is as old as about 150years old.
But your party made specific campaign promises with time lags for implementation. Is it that your party did not do its home work enough to ascertain the extent of problems in the country or like some say, it was just too desperate to get power?
First of all, any party that has left the power cannot have accurate information as a matter of the African system where you do not have official access if you are not in the ruling party. In the United Kingdom, the opposition parliamentarian can demand and obtain any level of data because it has clearance. So you cannot hold APC responsible for that. There is no way the APC as a party, or any of its candidate at that time will have access to the kind of information that you are talking about. So, there was no mischief by APC. They didn’t lie. I would rather call it passion, drive, hope, aspiring to make things better. It is certainly not a function of the deceit. When you actually talk about deceit, it is states like mine, where one PDP administration handed power over to another PDP administration and as I speak, the new government has not been able achieve one of the promises made. You can call that deceit because he had access to the system before.
You seem to be indirectly agreeing that APC ran a campaign with information they were not sure of?
The APC out of zeal and passion for this country, a need to remove the shame from the faces of Nigerians, out of the capacity of the gathered men and women that it mustered, said that with the kind of resources that we have and for the kind of income we make as a country, we can do certain things. That was a projection based on available information. But then, we found out that the information by the former federal administration were false. One of the ministers of the PDP government said that some of the statistics that was being pushed out by the past government were false based on scooped statistics. So if the last government gave you scooped statistics about the economy, power output, investments in power, infrastructure, what could the then opposition do?
But is there any challenge Nigeria faces currently that APC has not been aware of long before it took over office?
My position is very simple. The longer the problem, the more the work needed to solve it. In psychology, you do not treat somebody who ran mad yesterday the same way you treat a person that has been mad for 10 years. The fact remains that if you are given a story, you must make an effort to go into the structures. This fact is that in all these years the political elites have given lip service to the challenges of our nationhood. The challenge of Nigeria nationhood is for the mindset of the political elite to transcend from business as usual to building a country that we can be proud of.
Where do you stand on the debate surrounding the health challenge of Mr. President?
First, illness is a human right; every human being has the right to be ill. You can not preclude it. Secondly, the Nigerian presidency is the most powerful presidency in terms of power in the world. Our Presidency is also one of the largest in terms of apparatus of government. All large enterprises and organizations run by delegation, at the best of times nobody can cover the office exclusively that is why you have a team of ministers.
The president looks ill even from pictures but I cannot tell the severity because I am not a doctor. My view is that we should leave all the conjecturing. The single fact is that illness is a human right and Mr. President is not in the best of health at this point in time and the doctors have not declared him unfit for office. The constitutional process of declaring him unfit for office has not even commenced. He is child of the constitution and law. I don’t know his state of health and even if I can conjecture, I am not a doctor.
But a chieftain of your party, Chief Bisi Akande has expressly pointed out that the health of the president is having an effect on the state of the nation. Do you agree with that?
My clear statements are as follows, Chief Akande is a lay man in this matter like myself, that one I can tell you for free because you know that to be true. Therefore if Chief Akande is a lay man in terms of health, he is not in the position to determine his sitting capacity. Anybody who is ill will under perform for the period of the illness, that is a given. I also hold the view that when we were students or workers no body drove us from school when we got ill and that is the fact. The job of being President is a grueling job and Nigerians voted for Mr. President despite his age; these are some of the possible fallout of doing the job and we should not punish him for becoming ill from time to time.
At what extent should Nigerians continue to be patient over his ill health?
My father was ill for a while before he died and I did not send him out of the house, I did not drive him away or stop him from being the head of the family. My mother was in a comma before she died and I did not ask her to stop being my mother because it is a human feeling. I have not seen any ministry that has shut down because the President did not go to work. I have not seen any part of the presidency that is not operational. The truth is that government processes are going on.
We are heading towards 2019 are you going to run for any political office, having contested for Senate and House of Representatives in the past?
The governorship of my state is vested in the Northern senatorial district right now which is where I come from. Governor Ben Ayade is doing a first term of our normal eight year rotational turn and he is in PDP. In my view he is not doing well. We in APC will vie for that office. We won’t allow PDP keep it. And when we vie it will be vied from the North my senatorial district. And if my people consider me worthy to be the arrow head or the spear head, why not, I’m all for it! All I want is let it be that the turn of my Central district is used to show the people of my state the excellence of the people of Ogoja. Right now the incumbent is not doing that; in fact we believe that Calabar and Cross River are deteriorated in the past few years and anybody who is honest will accept that.
What did you expect him to do that he is not doing now?
We have not had a project commissioned since he got into office. We have not had one project commissioned. You are a journalist you can go and investigate. People are complaining that Mr. President who is ill is not going to work, he himself who is well, when is he in the country?
But Cross River State is seen traditionally as a PDP state, do you think APC stands a chance in 2019?
What we see on the ground now is that APC is in charge. Let’s not forget that Edo State used to be a PDP state too. In my state, Donald Duke did his bit as governor but since he left office, there has been steady declined of the fortunes of my state. Today, the people are not happy and it is the responsibility of everybody to hold the government to account; it is not an act of opposition, it is an act of citizenship. As a citizen, he is spending our money. We want a government that will be accountable to our people, a government that thinks in terms of our people.
If Mr. President is doing this road I spoke about, all the ongoing projects in Cross River now are either federal government projects or NDDC projects. Local governments are owing salaries, all the bailouts have not translated to smiles on the faces of the people.
Are you not concerned that your governor is close to the President as an individual and appears to be having a very cozy relationship with the APC at the national level?
Mr. President is a very warm-hearted man, I don’t say that lightly. I had the opportunity of working closely for him. He is the kind of old man any of us would love to be when we are older. He take things easy. But ask yourself when he went to flag off the road, why did he not go back to commission the garment factory?
Between the time that my governor made overtures to him and when he got reports, the president realized that it was not what he heard that was on ground. That relationship is not real, it is not there. That is why he didn’t go back.