National Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP), Prince Chudi Chukwuani, in this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, speaks on the renewed debate over restructuring and the performance of the ruling party ahead of the 2019 general election and other matters.
How worried is your party about the state of affairs in the country, putting in context the recent fuel scarcity and the spate of killings in Rivers, Kaduna and Benue states that heralded the new year?
We are very worried. The state of affairs portends to what can be described as assault on the people of Nigeria by the enemies within. The recent fuel crisis before the holidays is a clear case of sabotage by elements within the ruling party and their colleagues outside the ruling party. Our party’s investigation revealed that the fuel crisis was unleashed on innocent Nigerians by these enemies of the state in order to show that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has failed especially in the light of the indications by the president that he would run for a second term in office. It seems that these people are willing to compromise the national security interest of our dear country in order to score a political point. Is it not ironic that murmurings of withdraws of fuel supply services began immediately after the president’s recent outings in Kano?
You have laid the blame of recent events on the enemies of the president trying to sabotage his government. But do you agree with those who also say it would seem like the president isn’t responding proactively enough?
No, I do not agree with them because if you recall when the president did not immediately appoint ministers after his election, these were the same people that were shouting themselves hoarse that the president should appoint ministers to assist him. So, they cannot appropriate and approbate. In fact these people cannot eat their cake and have it at the same time. These ministers have one duty and one duty alone which is to provide answers and solve a policy equation through the design and implementation of policies that would advance the president’s political promises. This they have failed to do especially the economic ministers. Look at the fiasco that bedevilled the budget estimates and budget padding. Should the president be the one with calculator adding up the budget while the minister of budget is out ridding in a siren intimidating the populace? Take the minister of finance for example, is it the president that should process the payment of the whistle blower of the Ikoyi apartment cash haul and why interfere with the forensic audit of a publicly quoted company? The damage done to our capital market is incalculable. Now on the minister of state for petroleum, the president gave a campaign promise to reduce the pump price of fuel, I challenge the minister of state to a public debate for him to tell us what concrete steps, if any, he took to actualize the president’s promise.
The other lawyer minister took up four portfolios that he lacked the technical competence to handle; it is like asking a judge to go and perform a brain surgery but due to political greed these people and the collaborators hoodwinked the president to base his ministerial appointments on political payoffs. In my opinion the only exception in the cabinet has been the Minister of Justice who actually solved a national security threat question posed by IPOB. The minister solved it through the court and obtained an order that outlawed IPOB and since then sanity has returned. The minister of justice did not go to the president to draft the motion and the court processes that was filed in court it was solely his initiative and ingenuity and nobody has applauded his efforts in that regard but our international partners and the silent majority took note.
You have never been an advocate of restructuring. But in the face of happenings in the country and the recent renewed debate over the issue, do you think otherwise?
I am totally on the same page with Mr President on his position on restructuring, the reason being that there is absolutely nothing to restructure. Some of these enemies of state who are clamouring for restructuring now postulate that it should mean the nation goes back to parliamentary system. They are disgruntled group of people who believe that they will be better off if Nigeria breaks into pieces. But thank God we have a president who understands what an oath of office is. The president swore an oath to preserve and protect the unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as one indivisible entity and that is what he is doing. Therefore my short answer to your question is emphatic no to restructure and nobody or group of people will be allowed to turn Nigeria into Syria and have our people being sold into slavery. I totally agree with Mr President on the score that process is our problem and not structure. It’s not strange that the people that came out to contradict Mr President are senior members of his party.
How do you react to the clamour for devolution of powers and cutting of cost of governance?
Cutting cost of governance is not restructuring but a political philosophy and objective. Devolution of power is a constitutional issue and has nothing to do with restructuring. These are the things that agitators of break up of Nigeria throw in to cause confusion.
The New Year is just starting and indeed this year will be very strategic for many political parties. But it does seem like your party isn’t doing much opposition?
Opposition in a democracy does not necessarily equate to ventilation of anger and resentment because those are not governing principles. We decided to take the path of strategic engagement and giving total support to the government in power on matters dealing with national stability, peace and security.
Is your party looking to forging an alliance or contest the presidential polls?
Certainly, as we head into the election season there are bound to be alliances and collaborations and our party intends to be part of it.
Do you have a party in mind already or are you still searching? What criteria will you look for?
We are still evaluating. The criteria will be shared values in the unity of the country and rapid economic growth
Many people believe that the opposition has not done so well in putting the APC to task, much less provide constructive criticisms and alternative ideas. Do you agree with this position?
No, I do not agree. Opposition has been constructive and alternate ideas are being put fort but it appears the media are only interested in issues that are put forth to undermine the economy and security of the state such as Dezeani’s NUPENG and PENGASSAN Union leadership conniving to hold the country hostage on flimsy grounds.
In specific terms, do you think the leading opposition party, the PDP, can unseat the APC in 2019, going by the recent events in the party?
No, I do not see it because the amount of corruption uncovered is too much to bear by any right thinking individual.
Isn’t it worrisome that months after most of their members have been charged to court there has been no conviction?
Unfortunately, the judicial process in Nigeria is painfully slow but it gladdens the heart that the Chief Justice of Nigeria recently came with practice procedures that will quicken the process.
The PDP has also accused the APC administration of being equally corrupt in light of series of scandals that have been unearthed so far?
At least under the APC administration scandals are allowed to come to light.
As the APC enters its third year as ruling party, how would you rate it, in light of its campaign promises ahead of the 2015 general polls?
Unfortunately for the president he inherited and appointed people in positions that do not share his vision and do not believe in his campaign promises. Mr president inherited the Governor of Central Bank who was appointed by the corrupt administration of his predecessor and who obviously do not believe in the president’s campaign promise of reducing the exchange rate of the naira to be below N100 to $1 instead of solving the problem to achieve the president’s promise the CBN governor hoodwinked the president to massively devalue the naira promising massive infusion of foreign investment which nobody has seen and the economy collapsed as a consequence of the Naira devaluation. Same is true of the ministers of Finance, Budget and Petroleum. The one of Petroleum is very sad indeed when the president was abroad battling his health problems these people at NNPC were busy squabbling over who has the authority to award $25bn contract and appointment of their stooges in strategic positions within the NNPC. None of them paid any attention to ensuring adequate fuel supply during both the Muslim and Christian holidays.
You seem to blame the people working with the president for the problems. But if the buck stops on the president’s desk, why has he not replaced them? Do you agree with those who say cabinet reshuffle is long overdue?
The president spent a substantial time battling his health issues and has just fully recovered. And also the president is one that is very loyal to those that stood by him when he was fighting for the presidency over the years but I believe that the time has come for national interest to supersede personal loyalty. So, I agree that cabinet reshuffle is long overdue.
What are your expectations of the ruling party this year?
The president should summon the courage to effect serious changes in his cabinet and bring on board people that share his vision to rapidly grow the economy and inject cash into the system and get millions of people working again.
There has been a rapid rise in number of political parties, about 67 as at last count, what does this portend for INEC and other stakeholders?
Our constitution allows it once the parties meet the constitutional requirements. But my worry is that the present INEC does not obey the orders of court. Two years ago the Court of Appeal, Enugu division declared INEC’s deregistration of parties as unconstitutional, null and void. But till date the present leadership of INEC has negligently refused to obey the order of the Court of Appeal and we believe that INEC should be called to order.
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