Former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh in this interview speaks among others on the import of President Mohammadu Buhari’s visit to the United States of America and the deals high-wire politicking that landed the All Progressives Congress at the presidency.
What do you think Nigeria stands to gain from President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to the United States of America?
Nigeria is looking up to the world in securing and stabilising the country through development. That is one of the things President Buhari’s visit will achieve for Nigeria. Being in the US with President Barack Obama, Nigerians have been able to discover that Buhari is not stubborn and rigid but simply a man with disciplined mind and a high sense of putting things in proper shape.
With that visit, America will assist Nigeria. Americans knew about the thefts that we are talking about. They knew about them before now but they were unwilling to relate to Nigeria because, apparently they knew more than us. They knew about the indiscipline and corruption in the land but, Buhari is ready to fight corruption because he never indulged in corrupt practices.
So, the visit to the US has provided diverse opportunities for Nigeria to achieve stability and development.
Are you in support of plans to probe ex-ministers over alleged oil theft?
President Buhari is not going to investigate and is not going to set up any commission of enquiry. He will allow the security agencies to do their work and they are already doing that. Is it not because the security agencies are doing their work that these revelations about oil theft and missing funds are becoming known? The security agencies should be allowed to do their work. Nigerians should be ready for the cleansing job that is going to take place.
But in doing what you regard as cleansing, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Jonathan’s people are seeing it as witch-hunting. What about that?
Are you saying that what these people are alleged to have done that they did not do them? If the rules are there and then Buhari says, ‘follow the rules,’ is that witch-hunting?
Many have been complaining that the Buhari administration is slow. When you hear complaints like that, how do you feel?
People cannot say that the government is slow or not working because, even without the ministers, the permanent secretaries have shown that the civil servants are the major officers concerned with the business of government. They have really been performing since Buhari became President.
President Buhari is a man that I have been with since 2003. I was the head of his campaign organisation in 2003, 2007 and chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) where he contested again for presidency in 2011. I know him so well that he is never a push over. He does his own things at his own pace. So, he doesn’t bother about detractors.
Don’t forget that Nigerians will not ask those detractors who are complaining about not appointing ministers. Buhari needs to carefully prepare the ground for smooth performance. Nigerians should be patient. They will be proud that Buhari is their President.
He came in 1984 and this is 2015. He needs to understudy things properly. He is trying to secure the ground and then fight the enemy of good governance which is corruption. It is only then that he can appoint ministers.
How confident are you that Buhari will fight corruption, insecurity and still have his feet on the ground to handle other functions of government?
I have confidence in Buhari and I believe strongly that he has all it takes to achieve all those things that you have listed. He is the only elected President of Nigeria that started by wanting to become President.
In 1960, Sir Tafawa Balewa was made Prime Minister. His ambition was to become a broadcaster. In 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari became President. He had wanted to be a senator.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was made President in 1999. He was in prison and his thought was to be free and not to die in prison.
In 2007, Yar’ Adua was made President by those who chose him. He had wanted to finish his eight-year term as governor of Katsina State and thereafter return peacefully to his job as lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was very comfortable with his job as governor of Bayelsa State. But he was brought to Abuja first as Vice President and later as President. None of them ever thought of being President.
But when you talk of somebody who started out by really wanting to be President, it is President Buhari. Some people had put a book together and the book was titled, “Project Nigeria.” In the book, they had spelt out how they wanted to rebuild and develop Nigeria. They gave it to Buhari to look at and when he looked at it, he made some jottings out of the book and then made up his mind about it. It was put together by a group of Northerners, who are very intelligent.
Meanwhile, President Buhari had always said that he was feeling sad seeing little children selling pure water and running around in the streets at a time they should be in school.
Interest in politics
All these put together motivated him into developing interest in politics. He had the vision to change the existing lifestyle of Nigerians particularly the little children. And because he is the only one who is in politics to become President, he contested 2003, he didn’t make it. He contested 2007 and in 2011 when he couldn’t make it, he said, “ Nigerians have opportunity for their lives to be made better but they lost it.” And he was about quitting but I said to him, “don’t stop. You will wait for your time and the time will come.”
That is why we can never underrate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the success that we achieved in the 2015 election that produced this government. Tinubu is an excellent crowd mobilizer, very highly proactive and exceptionally digital politician. He was the one who knew how he wooed the five governors of the New PDP and brought them into the APC. You cannot underrate Tinubu’s contribution to the success of the emergence of this government.
I only pity the PDP who are thinking that the so called crisis in the National Assembly is to their favour. There is no problem with what happened in the Senate and House of Representatives because we cannot say because Saraki emerged as Senate President that he is PDP or that because Dogara emerged as Speaker of the House he is a PDP person.
The House voted in Ekweremadu as Deputy Senate President. We thank God that David Mark did not emerge the Senate President because they would have said that it is constitutional.
We should give kudos to Tinubu because of his role in the influence that brought the PDP governors into APC. He wooed Saraki and Atiku and he knew how he went into the PDP and played all those games. I would tell you that two politicians that should be respected most in Nigeria today are Tinubu and Bisi Akande.
But I will also blame Tinubu for the crisis because having brought Saraki, Atiku and the five governors, you should know that it is not proper to think that Saraki, Dogara, Atiku, Kwankwaso will ever still be thinking of being PDP in APC. No. None of them is PDP any longer and they will ever remain APC. So, they should be so treated. What we owe Nigerians is delivery on our change mandate.
APC was just lucky to be the vehicle used to drive the change because, even without the APC, the Nigerian people would still have overrun the system and achieve the change by themselves. I congratulate the APC for being lucky to be the vehicle for driving the change. It is sad that the debt Jonathan plunged us into as a nation will take a long period to repay.
On planned probe of Jonathan’s government
If anybody had done anything bad in the past, it is the business of the security agencies to investigate. President Buhari won’t be the one to do that. He believes that the security agencies should know what to do to anybody, who has committed a crime, be it financial or whatever.
So, the security agencies should not wait until the President tells them to go after such a person because Buhari will not ask any security agent to do so. He believes that the constitution has stated clearly the roles of security agencies. If they now see an offender, who committed a crime and fail to handle such a person according to the law, then the law enforcement agents should be blamed.
This interview was first published on Vanguard