Hon. Peter Akpatason is representing Akoko Edo federal constituency of Edo state in the House of Representatives and chairman, House Committee on Civil Societies and NGOs. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he re-echoed calls by his party, APC, for Senate President Bukola Saraki to step down, among others.
Are you in support of President Buhari’s re-election bid?
I am supporting him already. I don’t think there is a better candidate. Look at all the candidates and check their pedigree, except people from small parties who have no chances of winning any elections because they are young people with decent background but I don’t know if they have any experience. When you come to the frontline, Buhari is the best among them all. I haven’t seen anybody that has the kind of pedigree and integrity that Mr. President has. Most of them have dirty records and we have not forgotten.
There have been calls from your party for Saraki to step down from the office of the Senate President. What is your take as a lawmaker?
Even without being a parliamentarian, I would have still held the same position I have now. Whether in APC or PDP, the global practice which has also been the case in Nigeria is that, the majority party produces presiding officers. The moment you know that your party is no longer in majority or you are now in minority, you relinquish that position and that is what the Senate President has to do. This is my belief as a person. So, I support my party’s position that the Senate President should resign. He is somebody that I have a lot of respect for but the institution is more important than one person. It is an affront on the nation’s democracy for somebody to want to use his present position of authority to undermine what is in the interest of the nation. It is not in our interest as a country for any individual to occupy a position that ideally he should not occupy. A little tension can overheat the polity but when it is coming as a result of an individual’s aspiration to grab position on the institution, then it becomes very inimical. For me, it’s uncalled for and it is a thing that ought not to be. So, because a few persons feel that, they have got enough power and resources to undermine Nigerian democracy, they are causing a lot of unnecessary tension.
Most of those defecting from the APC have blamed Adams Oshiomhole for their action, they think he is dictatorial and lacks the capacity to unite the party. Anybody who says that must be somebody who is operating from another clime. The party itself has suffered a lot of political manipulations by the same set of people that are now defecting. They have done a lot of damage to the party and suddenly the party realised they could not continue the way they are going and decided to bring in new and fresh ideas to enhance and manage their affairs. In the first few weeks, you saw the strategic moves that the present chairman of APC made. It caused panic on the other side. He made smart moves to reconcile people, to persuade people to remain in the party. Those People with their potential beneficiaries of defection have to quickly step up their game to convince and persuade their supporters to move out before this new dispensation will materialised and change their game plan. You cannot blame the new master strategist but on a system that failed to effect correction. They failed to normalise the political contest before the advent of this new dispensation. I give you an example, in 2015 on June 9, certain aberration took place in the legislative arm of government. The party was undermined and certain persons led by this same protagonists of defection disrespected the party and did things that are contrary to the party position and they were never appropriately reprimanded. Yes I support the idea of making peace when it’s necessary but when the peace is becoming repugnant, you have to go an extra mile to correct it and if that do not happen and the people capitalise on that to use their position to undermine the party, the change agent that came into effect cannot take place.
Do you see the APC as one united party after the 2019 elections because most people see it as a marriage of convenience?
I see APC as a new party which came with storm and strength, but it’s a party that has suffered severe attacks from people who do not seem to believe in change, people who have been beneficiaries of a dysfunctional system for years. People who got accustomed to mass acquisition of ill-gotten wealth because the system was not transparent enough, as a result they feel uncomfortable with the change agenda of APC and so have tried and are willing to do anything to frustrate the change agenda. That is not sufficient to kill the party APC because the change itself has produced significant results. This is despite the fact that the same period coincided with recession and intended and as well as unintended consequences of that experience. The result of change has manifest in many ways. You can see that Nigerians are now experiencing a saner era than an era where free funds were flowing and so the people became complacent, they became lazy. Now we are no longer lazy, you can see entrepreneurs springing up from different places, they are encouraging creativity and productivity. This government had the courage to implement policies that were initiated by other governments but they didn’t have the will to enforce them. Now they are being implemented and loopholes are being blocked. People can no longer steal money like they used to, so there is more money for development than before. We are told that more than 60 serious capital projects are going on in the South-East alone. We are seeing more tangible things than we used to see before. It’s just that we are no longer seeing liquidity in the hands of those people like before. The channels of ill-gotten wealth have been drastically reduced. A party on whose platform this is being achieved cannot just fizzle away like that. APC will get stronger and more acceptable as a party.
The pending INEC budget before the National Assembly caused a lot of furore. The leadership of the National Assembly believed it was being blackmailed. What is your take?
I think we need to investigate the process of budgeting in this country. We need the details so that we can understand how things are done. The CBN budget does not come with the national budget. NNPC, NCC, NDDC and some few others do not come with the main budget, and these are stand-alone arrangements. So, what INEC has done is nothing wrong. It is a practice that has been ongoing, but we have been saying for a long time that, agencies like INEC should be made to send their budget with the draft that comes from the presidency and Nigerians never took us serious.
There are concerns about Nigeria’s growing debt profile. What is your take on this?
I tried to relate monies borrowed by government to the projects the funds are meant for rather than looking at the value in isolation. If PDP borrowed so much money, what did they ever used the money for? Where are the results? Mr. President’s government borrowed one and you see tangible projects that are being carried out. I am not sure they have not borrowed money for overhead. These capital projects are all over the place. So as far as I am concerned, yes we must be conscious of our foreign indebtedness against our GDP and we must make sure that we don’t exceed our borrowing capacity. I have heard comments from the DMO and others which say that, we may be close to the threshhold but we are not yet there. We are still safe to borrow more. I think we should look at what these funds are meant for instead of the sheer amout of the money only. If you look at the 2018 budget and the inflow, it might not be sufficient to fund it. So for me, there is nothing wrong when we borrow and fund such projects.
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