Adamu Bello was a Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources under former President Obasanjo administration. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the retired banker states that Nigeria’s democracy is improving daily and says it is a shame that the executive and legislative arms of government are not able to work harmoniously, …Exerpt
Some people have blamed the Buhari government for mismanaging the economy. Do you share in such view?
I do not think that this administration has done anything to push us down the poverty line. If anything, it has introduced certain programmes particularly in the agricultural sector that have made credit facilities available to farmers and Nigerians interested in farming. They have also introduced programmes that will fasten the supply of fertilizers to farmers which has made it available to farmers unlike how it used to be in the past. This ordinarily translates into improvement in farm incomes and creation of jobs. So, the poverty level shouldn’t have gone up. Perhaps it is because of our dependence on oil. Most of our foreign exchange is earned through the sector and still agriculture contributes only 25% of our GDP while oil is about 70%. If you see the number of people in agriculture, almost 50% of Nigerians are in the sector but they contribute only 25% of the GDP of the country which shows you that unless you improve the income level of farmers, agriculture has a multiplier effect on any economy if it is properly harnessed. I am sure we will see some changes in their performances because the oil price has increased.
The APC has spent over three and the half years in power, would you say they have gotten it right so far?
It is very difficult to say whether they have gotten it right or not because the kind of transformation one would have loved to see in the economy is just coming up now. But I must applaud them in completing the work started by the previous regimes. This is a good sign. They didn’t come and initiate new programmes but decided to complete the projects that the previous administration left behind. This is a good sign. I doff my hat for them for trying to finish what others have started.
Some prominent Nigerians have urged the President not to seek reelection over what they termed ‘poor performance’ and health factor. What is your take? The truth is that, we need stability. Obasanjo did not asked him not to contest because of stability, he was talking in terms of performance. If Mr. President doesn’t contest, people in APC will start contesting and this could overheat the polity. If he were to win the election, at least there will be continuity. But if my party, the PDP wins the election, there might be some changes because we might not continue with some of his programmes.
Specifically, do you think the President has done enough to warrant a second term in office?
I think that, he is a work in progress. So far I can give him a pass mark. But it could be better.
The polity is being heated with recent happenings between APC and the National Assembly leadership. Is this development not a threat to democracy?
There are always some hassles in any democracy. Politics is the art of the possible but yet one of my professors used to say that, some people define politics as the art of the impossible because what you think will not be possible will be possible and what you think is possible might not be possible. These crises we see will always be there. You can see the way Trump campaigned, fighting people, insulting and even slapping some and yet he won. But with the president being from APC, one would have expected a more harmonious relationship with the legislature. I feel it is a shame that the executive and legislative arms of government are not able to work harmoniously. It is a failure of leadership that they have not been able to be united. I think we are trying our best to sustain democracy in Nigeria. Yes we are not perfect but we are improving daily. I want to say that, the act of vote buying and the rest is wrong. But people still go and campaign. If I sell my vote, it is my fault not another person’s. It is my decision to vote for you. If you take somebody’s money and vote for him, it shows a deal has been struck, which is unfortunate. Our democracy is still growing because at least we don’t hear of ballot snatching like before. Nowadays they buy votes. I am sure we will also pass that stage.
Coming back to the PDP, are you happy over the return of some persons to the party?
People are free to move from one place to another if their expectation are not meet. I don’t do that. I have remained in the PDP because I believe in the party and I will rather change the party from within than abandon it. But we are all different. If you look at people from APC moving to PDP, it is because they feel they have not been treated well. It’s not about the position you occupy. When we were in government, Atiku left PDP and joined AC, so it is not about the position you have but how you are treated. Politics is local and so we can’t stop them from moving but if I were them, I will not leave my party, I will rather change the party and make it better.
Nigerians are worried that we might not have free and fair elections judging from the few elections that have taken place recently. What do you think? In the case of Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi, to be fair, these positions were occupied by APC people and the states are also run by APC. Bauchi is a stronghold of APC, which is why even Isa Yuguda who was a governor couldn’t get much figure. The same party in power gives APC a greater chance than the other parties. In Katsina, it was the senatorial district of the President and if APC didn’t win there, what do you think people will say about the president? Circumstances are such that if APC has not won, people would have questioned the results. So, it is nothing out of the extraordinary.
Do you have faith in INEC as an electoral umpire?
Yes I do because there are very serious guys there. I personally know some of the commissioners. They are not people that can be bought easily.
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