Nnenna Lancaster-Okoro was a Senatorial candidate under All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abia State during the 2015 general elections. She is however the National Secretary of Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO) founded to propagate the ideals of governance which the administration of Muhammadu Buhari exemplifies. In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, she spoke about some topical national issues.
Looking at the state of affairs in the country would you say the APC administration has kept to its campaign promises two years after assuming office?
Yes there are challenges but things are picking up. However, what are the campaign promises that the president made? He promised us security; he promised economic increase, and he promised us that he will combat corruption. I would urge Nigerians to be patient. It takes a while to change something that had gone wrong for a long time. As we speak, a lot of improvements in Agriculture and infrastructure are noticeable all over the nation. Election promises are gradually being put into effect. If we expect an economy that has been on a downward trend for years to bounce back in just two years that would be asking for magic. The recession that this administration is pulling us out from had already started showing signs under the last administration. Most people don’t know that because the last administration did their best to suppress it. The magic wasn’t done by PDP which is was the Party in power for 16 years, how is APC expected to correct these enormous decay in two years. It is easier to pull down than to build. The economy is livening up fast. For instance the price of rice is coming down and Nigeria has even begun to export food. I eat and enjoy Nigerian rice, not Thai or Chinese rice and it tastes better. The government is doing a lot in Agriculture therefore. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Security is getting better too, kudos to our Security Agencies under the present APC government.
There are complaints that the anti-corruption war is biased against the opposition and that APC members are usually given soft landing. What do you think?
It is clear to everybody that the President has done a lot as far as tackling the hydra-headed monster called corruption is concerned. I am not saying that corruption has been totally cleared because it had become so endemic and systematic in some cases. The effect of whistle blowing has been very effective in serving as deterrent to stealing of public wealth. Secondly, I know a lot of people are saying some negative things about the EFCC witch-hunting people, especially PDP members, but it is not true. Some APC members are also been investigated by the EFCC, none is favoured unless of course it has not been noticed. By and large, we are beginning to have a new consciousness such that before people solicit for bribe, they will think twice because they don’t know who is going to blow the whistle on them. So that makes it very difficult for corrupt people to continue in their criminal ways.
We are beginning to hear calls for Buhari to run for second term despite his illness. What can you say to this?
He is on the path of recovery; you saw him a couple of days ago. He is not going to be ill forever. People fall ill and they recover, I don’t know what the hullabaloo is about the President’s health, it is as if he has committed a crime by being ill. Some people want to know the state of his health but are in no way interested in praying for his wellbeing. He is alive, thank God and getting stronger by the day, so I strongly advocate that he runs for 2019. And asking if he can deal with all the issues plaguing the country between now and two years, that is an impossible task, it’s only God that can do that in Nigeria. That is why it will be advisable for him to run in order to deepen the societal re-engineering that he has started already. Do you know how bad Nigeria is? Do you know how corrupt our people have become? When I was campaigning for the Senatorial seat, I was in the car waiting to address my people when a primary school child of not more than eight or nine years leaning by my car said: ‘These politicians have come again; I hope they brought money, I hope they brought money.’ This is a Primary school pupil. That totally shocked me. So you can see how really deep it has eaten into our psyche. It is not just the President that we should look up to, to correct the menace, we should also be doing our part. People drive wrongly and beat traffic light and I ask: ‘Is it Buhari that is driving recklessly now?’ People think corruption is only when money exchange hands; corruption comes in different forms, like when you know what is right and fail to do it. It should be you checking yourself; it should be parents instructing their children.
The opposition accuses the APC of being less interested in Buhari’s wellbeing by asking him to run for second term?
Of course, the opposition can say anything, that is why they are called ‘opposition.’ What are they there for? To pull him down and make up stories, they will say anything just to be heard. If opposition doesn’t say anything, how would you know they are there?
If Buhari were to be your relative, would you nudge him on to continue despite his health challenge?
I don’t bow to illness. I don’t say because I am ill, I won’t do what I am supposed to do. I will obviously give myself time to rest, get back on my feet and pursue what calls my interest. Relaxation is a relative term. What may be relaxation to you may not be to me. Some people like to work, they just want to work. Some people get powered up when they work and if the President does want to work who am I to tell him to stop working because they say he is ill? I am not a doctor to speculate on the illness. If he is capable and willing, I would encourage him to go ahead. He is doing well for Nigeria and I think all of those stories about his health are not only exaggerated but are diversionary.
What do you make of the unstable relationship between the executive and legislature largely controlled by your party, such that the opposition to the executive seems to be more from the APC caucus in the legislature?
Since I am neither in the executive or legislature, I will prefer not to comment.
But it does appear that the APC leadership has failed in harmonizing its members in the National Assembly to align with the executive which it also controls?
No, they have not failed. I can say that they are working assiduously and succeeding in harmonizing the relationship between the two arms of government. Look at it this way, PDP is going through their problems and it is not really an issue in the nation.
But everything that happens in APC appears to be blown out of proportion because it is the governing party.
With these disagreements brewing, does it not pose negative prospects for APC ahead of the 2019 presidential election?
The APC is going to record massive victory in the 2019 general elections. I am confident that our great party will retain the Presidential seat, gain more governorship positions and sweep the national and states assemblies elections by 2019. I know APC has been attacked so very much by the opposition and even from within. But I believe this can be contained. There is no situation that cannot be contained, it is all about understanding and believe me, the situation in Nigeria will get better. People are prone to having their own ways of thinking but things are being resolved daily. If it is so bad APC would not have been doing as much work as they are doing presently, which we will soon begin to relay to Nigerians through the media.
What is the relationship between APC as a party and BCO?
We have a harmonious and fruitful relationship with our party. All the departments we have liaised with so far have been very supportive, through making relevant information available. Also, our relationship with governors, ministers, heads of parastatals have been cordial. The positive responses we get from them, reflect that they understand the gap BCO fills in the dissemination of information with regards to propagating the President’s developmental values and interfacing with the grassroots across the country.
What’s your view on the rush by South-east politicians to join APC. Do you think it has to do with contesting for president in 2019?
The President never made such a promise neither to the South-east, South-south nor South-west. A couple of Heads in Nigeria had wanted to exceed even the mandatory eight years but some people want President BUHARI to jettison this right and quit. If people in the South-east are all rushing to join the party, will all the people rushing in have the opportunity to run for the Presidency? Certainly not. But I think that whatever their reasons may be, those in APC must have done very well which attracted and even encouraged the rush into our great Party, APC.