Kwara people voted for an oppressive govt – Ex-minister
The immediate past Minister of National Planning and Deputy Chairman, National Planning Commission (NPC), Dr. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, in this interview, speaks on the politics of Kwara State and the new Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari.
What have you been doing since you left office? I have returned to the university where I was a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, though I’m not actively teaching for now. Secondly, I have been engaging in politicking and actually trying to watch what the new government is doing, vis-a-viz issues they have been raising about our government. I have been responding to issues which I want to believe are constructive enough to deepen democracy, inform or correct an impression by the new government about our government. So, these are my engagements so far.
You have been silent about Kwara. Many people are insinuating that probably you are trying to join the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). How would you react to this?
We had elections - the presidential and gubernatorial elections. The turnout of election in Kwara gave it to the APC. To me, perhaps, Kwarans have spoken. Whether it was fraudulently got or it was got through due process, the outcome of the election shows the direction Kwaran people want. I just believe we should give the new government a breathing space at the state level. We should watch what the government is doing. If Kwarans decide that that is where they want to go, let’s see how it goes. Perhaps, it is going to favour them, if it is their wish to vote for a party or a set of people who have been oppressing and exploiting them, those who have been cornering their resources. I don’t need to be shouting or talking if a system is on. The people in the society are the victims of that system. You are just trying to assist either in liberating the people or trying to get them out of the oppressed system. But there is nothing to show that the people themselves are ready for that liberation and freedom in order to put an end to that oppressive system. I think the best thing is to watch, fold your arms and watch how things are going. If the people themselves are pushed to the wall, they would react adequately.
It is been over 100 days since President Muhammadu Buhari took over. What is your impression about the administration?
The last 100 days of the APC government at the federal level are 100 days of intense work but no result. 100 days of policy statement with no policy direction. It is 100 days of a government without governance. It is 100 days of continued propaganda, and campaign. It is 100 days of a ruling government behaving like an opposition government. When I said it is 100 days of intense work but no result, we had a government that came to power, rode on the amber of fighting corruption and insurgency and within 100 days of that government, the insurgents in the North-East massacred almost a thousand Nigerians. Is that result?We had a government that came to power and promised employment and jobs. But within those 100 days, many companies and investors in Nigeria laid off Nigerians working for them, unemployment rose, joblessness rose according to the NBS statistics. It is very clear, most places you go to, it is the same cry. The Forex policy of the government has brought a situation where most of the banks are short of Foreign Exchange. People who have businesses abroad are forced to withdraw their money and take it to the neighbouring countries. What that means is that in the nearest future, very soon and quote me, the banking industry may collapse. Most of them would lay off their workers. The Single Treasury Account which we introduced was to be implemented in phases. But the way they are implementing it now as they ask all the parastatals and Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to operate just single account under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would spell doom for this country and the banking industry. So, it was a policy that was well thought out under our administration. But the implementation process has to be in phases. It is not a full implementation as they have done it. It is affecting the economy seriously. Within the 100 days of Buhari’s regime, I keep on saying it, in terms of integrity, in terms of dignity, in terms of forthrightness, give it to him, there is no doubt about that. But in terms of methodology and approach to issues, he is lacking in that approach. That is why under his administration in the last 100 days, we have been having policy summersault. They removed roadblocks everywhere. Later, they discovered that it was wrong. They reversed that. Some places should have roadblocks. Some places should not have.
The various outbursts at the international fora do not speak well of Nigeria. A leader doesn’t go outside the country to de-market your country. You can say anything of your country within the country. The essence of diplomacy is to put your country in a brighter light so that you can draw investors. It can bring in friends that would assist you. But when every time Mr. President goes outside Nigeria either in the U.S or France, the only thing we could hear is that, ‘the Ministers are noisemakers. The permanent secretaries are this’. You are not helping the country. That is not diplomacy. That is why I said even while they are in government, they are still behaving like opposition. You don’t go to the US and say that the government you took over from is corrupt. You are de-marketing Nigeria. You are de-marketing your product. As at the time Dr. Jonathan handed over, we have covered a mileage. For the first time, Jonathan gave us a mileage that ‘this is an investor-friendly country’, ‘Nigeria remains a potential nation’, ‘Nigeria remains a peaceful country’, ‘if you are looking for a model of democracy, it is Nigeria’. That gives us a mileage. So, going outside again to blacklist that same government that did that, you are not just blacklisting Jonathan, you are blacklisting the country. So, when you look at all these, in terms of policy statements, you observe that we have not been having result. When you say, ‘Yes, electricity has increased’ and I asked them question, when did Buhari turn to a magician? These are products of investment made by the immediate past government. When you say there have been improvements in this and that, it is the foundation laid down by the previous government. So, in terms of the economy, it is a glaring thing that the economy has not improved at all. It has been decimated.
Former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman