Hon Ahmed Yerima represents Misa/Danboa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the chairman, Committee on BPE and Privatisation, stated that sycophants are building what is called a personality cult around the president and it is not in his interest or that of Nigerians.
The APC governors have come out to endorse the president for a second term, are you in support of this?
They have no right to do that. Individually, they could say they support Buhari, I personally support Buhari but I don’t have a right to endorse him in the sense that I have the right over a number of delegates that I control, it is very undemocratic. Most of those saying they endorse him are those that want to return for a second term. Most of these governors are just praise singers. You have seen that, some governors before Buhari became president, used to abuse him, just like El-Rufai, which is what he does whenever he is not benefitting from the person.
These people are technocrats which I know is good. I will always support El-Rufai as a technocrat but I will never support him as a political leader because he is insensitive to certain basic elements of leadership. Leadership is a cocktail of character, organisational skills and intellect. So he fails in organising the people to know what he is talking about. But as a technocrat, we never had a minister of FCT like him and if I become president today, I would definitely bring him back to head the FCT or anywhere I want immediate changes. But not as a political leader because he thinks far ahead of any rural dweller. For him to come out every now and then and say he is supporting Buhari does not help him and is not helping Buhari. I will rather advise him to concentrate on implementing his policies in Kaduna State rather than going into political bickering with Atiku and the rest. People Like El-Rufai are building what is called a personality cult around the president and it is not in the interest of the president or Nigerians to build what is called a personality cult. That used to be common in Eastern Europe, which was where Stalin and the rest held sway. With what they are doing now in Nigeria, they are trying to turn the president into a communist.
Many Nigerians have decried the poor implementation of the 2017 budget, what is your take on it?
I am worried like every Nigerian and every lawmaker who is a patriot because failure to implement a budgetary policy is a breach of National Development in the sense that, it is a breach of the law.
Are you saying non implementation of the budget is an impeachable offence?
But why is the National Assembly silent about this?
I don’t think the National Assembly is silent in the sense that, to go ahead and say you will impeach the President or governors for failing to implement the law of the country is a daunting task, especially in a country like Nigeria where we are confronting a number of issues, moral, social, economic and political crises that may derail the process of democracy. Democracy is built step by step by following its step, amending and realigning policies. The government is trying its best to implement the great aspect of the budget but we may end up extending the financial year. The National Assembly could not conclude on the budget because it had to go on break. If you fail to implement the budget, it means there will be some financial deficit here and there. Two, there might not be liquidity, there will be unemployment and poor consumer confidence. Contractors will not be paid and all this will impact on the economy negatively. This will lead to a number of problems like high rate of unemployment, inflation will creep in and there will be tremendous set back on every sector of the economy. I don’t know why Nigerians should continue to face these kinds of problems where budget is not presented timely every year. If it was presented early, there would have been timely passage and coordination of the budget in a number of aspect bordering of monetary policies.
With the increase in kidnapping, herdsmen /farmers’ clashes and now the poor implementation of the 2017 budget, do you still have faith in this government?
It is not about having fate in the government, it is about facing the reality of things.
Would you say this government is facing the reality of things?
I hope they are, they should face the reality. You cannot have a government in place who will fail to look at things the way they are going and not do anything about it. When you come to address the issue of insecurity, it is not just about deploying soldiers and policemen to the spot, you must have a social program in place that will absorb the excess labour, both unskilled and skilled. You must cut down the number of unemployed and excess in the market. There must be a government guideline that will complement the private sector and at the same time, the private sector must help the government in implementing the policies of government.
Is that happening in this government?
It is not about whether it is happening but understanding the concept of it is another thing. In every country, there must be a coherent mechanism between the private and the government in terms of programing National Development policies. The government can develop policies but they can’t implement them without the private sector. There must be a system where the two sectors work together. The government will bring out the policies and the private will inject its impute on the policies. This country has been a government controlled economy, everything is centralised. There are lots of good people in this country but we need to allow the professional people to ride over the policies. Our problem is that we don’t allow the right people to do the job, which is those with the professional background to ride with the policies.
What has been the impact of these government policies on the private sector?
It is difficult to say because there are no statistics to back it up technically but as an average person, I will say there is no coherent mechanism of working together between the private sector and government. The government is always trying to dominate the private sector…
Is that healthy for an economy like Nigeria?
In every modern economy, the private sector is the driving force of any development. The government is there to give guidelines only. Unfortunately in our case, there is poor political will even in taking the advice and views of professional persons that are employed by the government. Even the technocrats within the government cycle, that is those working for government, are not taking seriously by the same leadership.
The Senate has scrapped the excess crude account. Some are afraid that it could have a negative impact on the economy, what do you think?
I don’t think so. When you are hungry, you don’t need any account called excess crude account. There is no excess of anything in this country, not even water supply. There is no excess of hospital equipment, no excess schools, computers or anything in Nigeria. People are hungry, unemployed and yet, you keep some money, saying it is excess or reserved while people are starving, it doesn’t make sense.
The governors have proposed that the FG be giving $1bn to fight insecurity but Nigerians are sceptic, especially with what played out in the last administration. How do you feel about this?
Nigeria is a very crooked, selfish country, especially the politician. There is a moral crises in the political class of this country. There is no defined responsibility of what will be done with the fund. It is not the responsibility of government to make that demand. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of defense or National Assembly to appropriate funds for the fighting of insecurity in the country.Unfortunately, if you go to states like Adamawa, Yobe, and Maiduguri, you will find their governors spending billio ns of naira buying equipment for security to fight insurgency. So what happens to the monies appropriated to the security agencies by the FG to fight this same insurgency? You will see state governments buying Hilux, petrol and others things for police and army from the funds that was appropriated to build schools, hospitals and roads for their states. So, it is a moral issue. It’s irresponsibility where by you take the money from the people and give it to security. Billions of naira is released by the FG to the security agencies to fight insecurity, instead they take money from the state treasury to finance these things. I am not saying the FG, National Assembly and state government should not work together, but each arm has its responsibility. I don’t see a way out unless the leadership of this country awakens to its responsibility and takes charge of its responsibility above individual interest, that is the only way Nigeria will survive. Every arm of government is interwoven in crooked issues. If you go to the south, you will hear them crying, “Why should excess crude oil money be taken to fight boko haram?” As if it is not in Nigeria that the attacks are taking place. So what kind of country is this? Everything revolves around money, there is no patriotism and national building. It is all about naira and kobo and that is the bottom line of our crises. The south south militants have threatened to start blowing oil installations, that the north should take money from groundnut pyramid to fight boko haram when we have a federal structure that is responsible for security in the country. So, the state governors have no constitutional backing to propose the release of funds to the FG to fight insurgency, only the National Assembly has the right to approve this, not the governors. The governors are the main cause of our problems in Nigeria. They should go and do what they are elected to do, that is supply water, build roads and hospitals for their states and that is what the president has said about them. They are unable to pay salaries, gratuities and other basic amenities their people voted them to provide for them, so they are the very great component of the failure of Nigeria. The constitution has given them a big latitude, they have immunity, and they do whatever they want. Even when they leave office, the EFCC, DSS and the rest will start chasing them but for the past 17 years of our democracy, none of them has been prosecuted.