‘Buhari’s sec­ond term bid smacks of ob­ses­sion with power’

NA­TIONAL Chair­man of Hope Demo­cratic Party (HDP) and for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Am­brose Owuru, says Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s dec­la­ra­tion of in­ten­tion to seek a sec­ond term in of­fice af­ter three years of “abysmal per­for­mance” smacks of sheer politi

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - PANORAMA -

WHAT is your re­ac­tion to Pres­i­dent Buhari re­elec­tion bid? We can only wish him well. Be­ing a cit­i­zen of Nige­ria and the in­cum­bent pres­i­dent, he has the right to seek re­elec­tion. It is left for Nige­ri­ans to make a choice. At present, the coun­try is at cross­roads and Nige­ri­ans are be­gin­ning to re­think and worry about the kind of lead­er­ship they want. This is where the is­sue of Buhari seek­ing a sec­ond term will be in­ter­ro­gated. The elec­torate may choose to vote for a dif­fer­ent leader. He is one of the op­tions.

What is your as­sess­ment of Buhari’s gov­ern­ment since 2015?

I think he has done his best. We should not for­get that Pres­i­dent Buhari didn’t prom­ise us heaven on earth, he only em­pha­sised on fight­ing cor­rup­tion and in­se­cu­rity. I don’t think he promised much on the econ­omy, but what Nige­ria need most is some­one that will ad­dress the econ­omy now. It is left for Mr. Pres­i­dent to ex­plain to Nige­ri­ans what he has achieved since he as­sumed of­fice.

But for our party’s as­sess­ment of him, there is more to be done and there are ar­eas he hasn’t touched. And un­for­tu­nately, he hasn’t even for­mu­lated poli­cies in the ar­eas he has touched. We said it from the be­gin­ning that it is not pos­si­ble to fight cor­rup­tion with­out a le­gal frame­work. He re­lied on the courts and the ex­ist­ing sys­tem, which are not also free from cor­rup­tion. You can­not fight cor­rup­tion with a cor­rupt sys­tem.

He also in­her­ited the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crime Com­mis­sion (EFCC) that has played more to the gallery, me­dia trial of sus­pects and oth­ers. Imag­ine hav­ing a po­lice-pop­u­lated EFCC that is even cor­rupt that he wants to de­pend on to fight cor­rup­tion? So, he has been de­ceived if he was re­ly­ing on the court and EFCC. You can­not fight cor­rup­tion de­pend­ing on old judges, who were planted by the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP). He should have an­nounced the re­struc­tur­ing of the po­lice or cre­ate a new po­lice from the be­gin­ning.

The EFCC was a cre­ation of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion based on its po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives. Af­ter com­ing to power, he should have re­struc­tured that or­gan­i­sa­tion and made it more mil­i­tary and se­ri­ous as against a sit­u­a­tion where you have an EFCC com­pris­ing of ju­nior po­lice of­fi­cers, who are only an­swer­able to their su­pe­ri­ors and who know how to ma­nip­u­late cor­rupt cases.

If one may ask, how much has EFCC re­cov­ered as loots? Re­cently we heard that the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance wrote EFCC to ex­plain where the re­cov­ered monies are and the Com­mis­sion will not even re­spond.

We have po­lice pros­e­cu­tors who are busy charg­ing peo­ple with­out a con­crete ev­i­dence. They are not even look­ing for­ward to con­vic­tion and once they are set­tled, the case re­mains in court. The po­lice made Buhari give Nige­ri­ans false hope. This is a time we need to in­ter­ro­gate these ar­eas. Nige­ri­ans are now wiser. This ad­min­is­tra­tion has been walk­ing on a blind al­ley. He promised to fight cor­rup­tion and in­se­cu­rity but he must have seen that the chal­lenges are more than he thought.

When the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) gov­ern­ment came in 2015, Nige­ria was deal­ing with Boko­haram in­sur­gency, now, we are deal­ing with armed herds­men cri­sis and it ap­pears Buhari is not best po­si­tioned to ad­dress these is­sues frontally. He has been dodg­ing these is­sues in­stead of con­fronting it. He doesn’t even talk to Nige­ri­ans. I don’t know how a leader would want to op­er­ate in a mil­i­tary fash­ion?

He keeps quiet and ex­pects things to work. He ex­pects peo­ple to be­have. We need a proac­tive leader, who knows what the peo­ple feel and how to tackle them. Up un­til now I have not heard any pro­nounce­ment from the pres­i­dent on the armed herds­men is­sue ex­cept that the In­spec­tor Gen­eral of Po­lice (IGP) should do this and the Chief of Army Staff should do that. There have not been con­certed ef­forts in talk­ing to af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and their lead­ers. These things have some re­li­gious col­oration.

They have made some in­road into agri­cul­ture, but not mech­a­nised agri­cul­ture. The ‘cat­tle colonies’ the gov­ern­ment is talk­ing about should not be for cow, but agri­cul­ture. I don’t know the num­ber of jobs his gov­ern­ment has cre­ated, but we have the es­ti­mate num­ber of peo­ple that are un­em­ployed. There is no con­certed ef­fort or pol­icy on free ed­u­ca­tion, free health­care. The gov­ern­ment has not even ar­tic­u­lated it. The gov­ern­ment is not ad­dress­ing is­sues and this is what is mak­ing peo­ple des­per­ate in this coun­try. Why do you say Nige­ria is at cross­roads? What is left? An Amer­i­can mil­i­tary gen­eral re­cently said Boko­haram is the most dan­ger­ous ter­ror group that kill both mil­i­tary and po­lice at will. You have peo­ple who come and cart away hun­dreds of chil­dren in buses, yet the Chief of Army and se­cu­rity chiefs are still in place and they are not ex­plain­ing to us how this was pos­si­ble. This can only hap­pen in Nige­ria, where peo­ple are not re­sign­ing or be­ing sacked. No­body is answering any ques­tion; no­body is answering any­body. We have come to the point where I will say we are at the cross­roads. The pri­mary pur­pose of gov­ern­ment is to pro­vide se­cu­rity and welfare. If welfare and se­cu­rity are not be­ing ad­dressed, what is the pur­pose of gov­ern­ment?

What are the chances of the rul­ing party re­tain­ing power in 2019 with Buhari as its can­di­date?

In a free and fair elec­tion, APC doesn’t stand any chance, not when they have all de­clared each other thieves. The rul­ing party and the ma­jor op­po­si­tion PDP are the same. They don’t stand the chance of win­ning elec­tion but they can ma­nip­u­late vote. APC wants to rely on the PDP ma­nip­u­la­tive tac­tics to rig the next elec­tions. The party is not both­ered about what it has achieved but only both- ered about how it will use gov­ern­ment ma­chin­ery to per­pet­u­ate it­self in of­fice. Do you see APC up­set­ting the po­lit­i­cal equa­tion in the South-south re­gion, which is pre­dom­i­nantly PDP?

It is un­for­tu­nate that the Niger Delta re­gion is now in the op­po­si­tion at the na­tional level. Our peo­ple have al­ways had a one-way track in terms of align­ing with the cen­tre. APC is presently in Edo State. But what you see in the South-south is not about our peo­ple; it is about the kind of politi­cians we have. Politi­cians that have re­fused to play real pol­i­tics, they have re­fused to rally the peo­ple for the good of the re­gion and its cit­i­zens. They are what I call ‘peo­ple’s boys’. They are not men of their own. They have never ar­tic­u­lated ideas of their own. What you will see if any­thing will hap­pen is that most of them, like the Gover­nor River State, Nye­som Wike, are likely to de­fect to APC. They don’t mind cross­ing over to the op­po­si­tion if they are not get­ting a fair deal in PDP.

Most of them who even fol­lowed for­mer Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan aban­doned him the mo­ment he lost the 2015 elec­tion. You can­not say that Gover­nor Se­ri­ake Dick­son of Bayelsa State and for­mer Pres­i­dent Jonathan are in the same ship to­day. The rea­son why Gover­nor Wike is shout­ing is be­cause his great­est po­lit­i­cal en­emy is too close to Buhari. This is the kind of South- South you have. Have you heard about re­source con­trol lately?

Con­sid­er­ing Mr. Pres­i­dent’s age and health sta­tus, do you think he is fit to rule be­yond 2019?

I thought he would have re­viewed this area con­sid­er­ing that the whole world saw him so sick. And for over four months he was away from his coun­try and God has blessed him, saved his life and brought him back. I think some­times we don’t lis­ten. See, when you are in power, you need to be a good leader like for­mer Pres­i­dent of South Africa, Dr. Nel­son Man­dela to be able to lead and also di­rect your fol­low­ers. Most of our lead­ers al­low their mind to be ma­nip­u­lated by peo­ple around them, by think­ing neg­a­tively. They do not think about the peo­ple. If you are think­ing of the peo­ple af­ter this ten­ure you will let them know I have played my role and with the way things are I need to have my rest. I think he has achieved one thing. He has proved a point; he has been elected a civil­ian pres­i­dent af­ter he was thrown out of of­fice via a coup. I think the de­sire to cor­rect that im­pres­sion must have been the driv­ing force be­hind his quest for the pres­i­dency. I don’t think he came to rule well.

How would you de­scribe his sec­ond term bid?

It is sheer ob­ses­sion. It was this same ob­ses­sion that brought him back to power af­ter he was over­thrown as Mil­i­tary Head of State in 1985 and the same thing with for­mer Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo.

In the op­po­si­tion some of us put in our best to prove that we can be reck­oned with based on our opin­ion and strong views. Peo­ple never fol­lowed Buhari be­cause of his opin­ion. What we all con­ceded to him was that as a mil­i­tary ruler he had some mea­sure of in­tegrity and we felt he will re­store some san­ity. So, Nige­ria needed some­body to re­store some mea­sure of san­ity just at the point he be­came pres­i­dent and that is why I

“His sec­ond com­ing has shown that he is not the same Buhari that we know and I don’t know the magic he wants to per­form. Nige­ri­ans have come to un­der­stand that the mys­tery about him is no more. I think he is in a po­si­tion to ex­er­cise self-con­trol that this coun­try may have prob­lems, if he con­tin­ues in power. He has not been able to hold back Boko­haram and may not be able to hold back other groups. He couldn’t even touch the armed herds­men. The rate of crime is get­ting blood­ier. The kind of cor­rup­tion you see is get­ting a bit more or­gan­ised. Buhari does not feel any­thing. We are worse off now

“In a free and fair elec­tion, APC doesn’t stand any chance, not when they have all de­clared each other thieves. The rul­ing party and the ma­jor op­po­si­tion PDP are the same. They don’t stand the chance of win­ning elec­tion but they can ma­nip­u­late vote. APC wants to rely on the PDP ma­nip­u­la­tive tac­tics to rig the next elec­tions. The party is not both­ered about what it has achieved but only both­ered about how it will use gov­ern­ment ma­chin­ery to per­pet­u­ate it­self in of­fice

said he has done his best. His best was to re­store san­ity. My con­cern is that half­way down the line he lost it. Cor­rup­tion and in­se­cu­rity have grown worse under him. The first three months of his gov­ern­ment scared peo­ple but af­ter that when he couldn’t make up his mind on min­is­ters and all that, Nige­ri­ans be­gan to see his weak­ness. Do you fore­see any emer­gence of po­lit­i­cal alliance that could de­feat the in­cum­bent in 2019?

A lot of peo­ple are ea­ger to come up and see what they can do to save this coun­try. But we need to get peo­ple who will fund this move­ment. In other clime, it is not about money; it is the peo­ple’s anger. It is the fact that votes must count; the de­ter­mi­na­tion to see a change is what counts. We will see how we will be­gin to do our own bit. We will not rest un­til we see peo­ple think dif­fer­ently.

What do you think ad­di­tional four years of Buhari’s pres­i­dency por­tends for the coun­try?

His sec­ond com­ing has shown that he is not the same Buhari that we know and I don’t know the magic he wants to per­form. Nige­ri­ans have come to un­der­stand that the mys­tery about him is no more. I think he is in a po­si­tion to ex­er­cise self-con­trol that this coun­try may have prob­lems, if he con­tin­ues in power. He has not been able to hold back Boko­haram and may not be able to hold back other groups. He couldn’t even touch the armed herds­men. The rate of crime is get­ting blood­ier. The kind of cor­rup­tion you see is get­ting a bit more or­gan­ised. Buhari does not feel any­thing. We are worse off now.

APC ap­pears re­solved to re­struc­ture the coun­try, what do you think of it?

Who­ever raises that is­sue of re­struc­tur­ing did so to di­vert at­ten­tion. I don’t think the party even knows what re­struc­tur­ing is. It merely wants to cre­ate some mea­sure of rel­e­vance. The rul­ing party is never se­ri­ous about re­struc­tur­ing Nige­ria. You can’t re­struc­ture Nige­ria on the pages of news­pa­pers. The call for re­struc­tur­ing is borne out of anger of the peo­ple on ba­sis that there is no welfare and se­cu­rity. The gov­ern­ment should go back to the books. The gov­ern­ment does not care so long as there is meal on their ta­ble. Does the un­em­ployed have what to eat? In­se­cu­rity has killed our in­dus­tries. APC did not want to re­struc­ture but be­cause they know that Nige­ri­ans will make it an is­sue they want to own the process by claim­ing they are the ones who want to re­struc­ture Nige­ria.

Owuru

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