• Thursday, July 18, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Buhari has failed himself, his family and Nigeria – Onovo

businessday-icon

Martin Onovo, a trained Petroleum Engineer and former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2015 general election, is not known to sandpaper issues, he speaks straight and calls a spade by its proper name. When it comes to national issues, he does not suffer fools gladly. In this exclusive interview, on the state of the nation, with ZEBULON AGOMUO, Editor, Onovo ex-rays the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the All Progressives Congress (APC) government, alleging very strongly that they have destroyed Nigeria and that it will take many years to clean up the mess that the current administration has inflicted on the body polity in less than three years in the saddle. Excerpts:

You contested the presidency in 2015 on the NCP platform. May we know of you still have the interest to contest again in 2019?

O yes, I still have the interest.

Then what are we likely to see in the days ahead?

Well, if I confirm my interest I will initiate the process after the Easter celebration.

Right now, I need to go on a spiritual retreat, particularly in this period of Lent to seek the face of God about my interest. If that is successful, I will initiate the process. I will start the consultations, starting with my party members and this time it is not going to be a strictly party thing as it was in 2015. We are already involved in a coalition. We are going to seek even a broader coalition. We are otherwise affiliated with the Coalition of Nigeria Movement led by former Chief Obasanjo; we are going to network with all other groups. This is because I think the national consensus can be built around Obasanjo’s public statement.

Assuming you receive the nod from the spiritual angle and your party; what do you think are those specific things you will be doing to achieve victory this time around?

Well, it is every simple. This time we will try to make it less-competitive, less contentious by reaching out to all the other groups including the ruling party. The ruling party has failed woefully, so it is not about adversary or contention it is about let’s reason together. What do they have to lose if we can initiate and establish the new Nigeria with a new government? Is it not better for every Nigeria, including they, themselves? So, we are going to reach out to everybody, not just other opposition parties; not just movements, particularly the Coalition for Nigeria Movement.

The political space is being heated up with endorsements. People are endorsing some others and many others are positioning themselves to be endorsed. What are your fears because a lot of things are already happening?

I have many fears. The first thing is that immediately after the 2015 inauguration of the present government, after about three months it became clear that the government is anti-Nigerians. Very clearly. And we raised the alarm; but the media frenzy did not allow that because when we raised this serious alarm people did not weigh it for its merits. They weighed it from a parochial perspective, ‘O, it is not our party’, ‘O because he lost the election’, and that is very unfortunate because the way to move the country is to weigh things by the merits so we can take the right decisions.

We had alleged then, correctly, that the current government was deliberately trying to destroy Nigeria. And what was our logic then, that the pillars that held Nigeria together were being ferociously attacked by the government. The government was attacking our laws; the government was attacking national unity party the government was violating federal character; the government was acting with impunity; the constitution was being completely disregarded; and we raised that alarm early enough, but the media which some people want to misinterpret that I don’t like; the media is a partner, and I like the media; I am only calling on the media to live up to its constitutional role as a watchdog. I am not the one who gave the media that role and I have no authority to give the media any role; but the Nigerian constitution gave them a role and they must live up to that role.

The media cannot abandon its role to the opposition parties, because the opposition parties have their own role. The role of the opposition parties is alternative policy positions and alternative candidates. That’s the role of the opposition. The role of the media is watchdog; to educate; to instruct and to watch governments.

The media cannot escape that role and then transfers its role to the opposition parties. So, when I say it, they say ‘O, he doesn’t like the media, that cannot be true. The media is a critical partner for development, so the media has to understand and play its role because that role is critical for our national development.

If it doesn’t play its role, the country will collapse even if we do our best. So, if each segment of the society takes care of its own particular responsibility, then the country will do better. That’s how it is. So, it is critical that the media aligns itself to our constitutional development imperative and plays its role as the fourth (4th) arm of government, which is critical.

The 4th arm of government it is the media. These are the emphases we want to make and if we all do that it is not about whether Onovo is the president, it is about whether we have the right president. And how do we know the right president? It is the vision, the integrity, the moral competence, the mental competence, and the medical fitness of candidate. That’s how we know the right candidate. It is empirical. It can be seen. You don’t go and get a candidate that doesn’t have WAEC and think he can compete in this digital world. You don’t do that.

Many people are worried that the opposition in Nigeria appears dead…?

Opposition is not dead. The media is hyping the ruling party because the ruling party has established, unpatriotically (with emphasis – unpatriotically) the most elaborate propaganda network ever seen in Africa. And that’s what we are up against. They drown you with their misinformation, dis-information and sheer propaganda. What do you want the opposition to do? To buy AK47? No! That’s not opposition. What do we do; like I told you, the role of the opposition is alternative policy positions and alternative candidates. That’s what we do; that’s our role. We are not supposed to go to the streets and start a fight; we are not Boko Haram. You need to get the difference; we are playing our constitutional role.

On insecurity, we have alternative policy position; on anti-corruption policy position; in energy; in economy, we have our alternative policy position. If the media does not project it to the populace, there’s no opposition party that has the capacity to do so. So, it is unfair to say that the opposition is dead when we are there doing and playing our constitutional role and the media refuses to project our activities. It is not our fault it is the fault of the media that has refused to project our positions. We cannot project our positions because we don’t have media platforms. It is that simple.

Recently, two former presidents wrote to president Buhari to telling him to disembark and go home. Don’t you think that amounted to infringing on his constitutional right to vote and be voted for?

No, what do you mean? He doesn’t have the right.

You mean he does not have the right to contest again in 2019?

What do you mean he has the right? Don’t you read the constitution? He needs to provide evidence that he has the minimum qualification to seek the office. We need to see the evidence that he has the West African School Certificate (WASC) which is the minimum requirement. I will like to see the certificate myself.

But he contested and won in 2015 even though the issue was raised then…?

That’s not the issue. It doesn’t matter if it was raised, the question is, has he been certified? It doesn’t matter whether it was raised at anytime. What do you mean it was raised? You want to waive a constitutional requirement? That’s what you’re saying? That is impunity. That is lawlessness; and that’s part of the problem.

But it wasn’t on that basis that Obasanjo and Babangida gave their advice?

You know that there was a court case and the court did not rule. And you know that the case was manipulated by the confession of Ibrahim Auta, a former Chief Justice of the Federal High Court. He has confessed that they deliberately adjourned sine die.

So, why should he get away with that? That’s subversion. That’s treasonable. It is about political power and leadership; it’s treasonable that they refused to try a case on its merit, by adjourning it till after election. So, that’s mischief and it is treasonable mischief.

So, you align with Obasanjo and Babagida’s advice that President Buhari should go home after 2019 and not to seek a fresh term?

They didn’t say that; Chief Dr. Obasanjo didn’t say that. He gave his reasons, which are patriotic reasons and absolutely correct under any scenarios.

I am giving a reason. Chief Obasanjo did not say President Buhari is not qualified to seek a re-election; I am saying in additional to what Chief Obasanjo said which are correct; he is also not qualified until he produces that minimum academic requirement. He says he has it, I am not saying he doesn’t have it, but let’s see it because INEC demanded for mine and I tendered it, so it becomes discriminatory against me and discrimination is against the constitution. INEC demanded for my own, otherwise I too would have said I have, and I won’t present it.

You have watched the APC-led Federal Government for close to three years and you said it has failed woefully. May we, in specific terms, know those areas you think they have missed the mark?

Very simple. The first thing to start with is their own self-indictment. We have their published promises; one of which is three million jobs a year, published and signed by their national chairman.

Three million jobs a year, you should have nine million jobs. Instead of having nine million jobs, officially they have lost nine million jobs which is a deficit of 18 million, the nine million that they promised and the nine million that were lost. So, it is not only they didn’t fulfill their promise, they went further to destroy.

That’s why I told you that the government is fighting to destroy this country. And that is a strong statement and I am making it with full conviction and without fear of contradiction because the evidence is there. Second, they promised you two new deep sea ports. Where are they? They promised you four million new homes in four years which is one million a year. Where are they? Have you seen any? They are still talking about getting a location where there’s not even budget. So, it is deceit; sheer deceit. The government of the day is very self-defeating, extremely unpatriotic and to say that their performance is catastrophic is mild. It is very mild. Now let’s go to the next step. They promised you national security, in fact they said anti-corruption was their priority which shouldn’t be because security should be higher priority than anti-corruption, but because they had ulterior motive of using it to decimate the opposition they made it their principal priority, which is political corruption. But let take them one by one. There is no Nigerian who can honestly, with confidence, tell us that he feels more secure now than he was in January 2015; or in March 2015.

Now Boko Haram is still there clearly; they are still attacking. The herdsmen are there; kidnapping that was a regional thing is now a national thing. Armed robbery is everywhere.

Then the most Satanic dimension of ritual killing particularly in APC-controlled states, go and check it, police crime records – the APC states lead in ritual killings topped by Osun State, and reports say it is politicians and clergy (in quote), false prophets and false pastors- that are involved. So security is clearly worsen from the indices that I have given and from the comments by the authorities because the National Assembly has raised the alarm over sexual crimes; the Inspector General of Police, the Chief law enforcement officer, has raised the alarm over the rise of kidnapping. You know how many hundreds and thousands of people that are now homeless because of herdsmen?

You know how many deaths we have recorded? We are less secure now. Please this is not partisan politics. These are hard patriotic facts for national development. Let us move to anti-corruption. I challenge my APC friends who say ‘Eh, give us credit on anti-corruption’: but I say to them your anti-corruption is a pro-corruption not anti-corruption. You are deliberately (watch my choice of words); I know the meaning of words- deliberately- promoting corruption. Actions speak louder than words. The actions of the government speak louder than the words of the government. The word of the government is anti-corruption, the action of the government is pro-corruption. And how did it speak? The clear message from the government is that ‘you can be as corrupt as you like as long as you can be one of us’; ‘Ok, even if you are not corrupt and you are not one of us we will label you corrupt’. That is pro-corruption. I don’t want to call names to personalise it. Two gubernatorial candidates of the APC under this regime are people indicted by the EFCC, what did they do? They made them their gubernatorial candidates. Let me go back to insecurity. May be you are not aware; that the so-called Don Wanny that terrorised Rivers State a few months back was an APC thug and now an APC state is giving amnesty to those thugs against 2019. So, they are promoting insecurity and they want to destroy the country. The APC is deliberately destroying the country. I said it and I am saying it now with full conviction that this government wants to destroy the country.

They are promoting insecurity; they are promoting lawlessness and they are deliberately destroying the economy.

How else can a country stand? They are dividing the people; what is going to bring the country together? You promote insecurity, you divide the people, you destroy the economy, you rubbish our laws and our constitution.

So, you are among those who believe that the country is now more divided than ever?

Everybody agrees. The elder statesman, Lt-Gen Alani Akinrinade has said that publicly, not privately. And these were the people who fought the war when we thought we were divided. Chief Dr. Obasanjo has said that.

Apart from what others are saying, what is your take on that; do you believe it is a true reflection of things in the country at the moment?

It is clear; the facts are there; the country is now more divided. Anything you now say people want to interpret it from a parochial point of view, even if it is empirical. Clear statistic is empirical. So let’s talk about the economic so, that I can produce that empirical economic data. I will use five criteria to evaluate the Nigerian economy. And these are universal standards – GDP, unemployment rate, inflation, exchange rate and public debt. All have not only gone south, they have gone terribly south.

GDP terribly went bad that we officially entered a recession and stayed in recession for almost five quarters. That’s how bad it is, with empirical evidence from government sources not from opposition parties. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) confirmed this. Unemployment like I said before, nine million jobs lost; it has never happened in this country; what can be worse than that? It has never happened in the history of Nigeria. Inflation, a painter of garri used to be N200 now it is N800. That’s the custard small bucket. That is 300percent increase. Have you ever seen a thing like this and this is a staple food; the price should not move. Government should do whatever it takes to keep the price stable. The misery index has risen; the poverty index has risen. Only a corrupt or a blind person will attempt to defend this country. So, that’s on inflation. Let’s talk about exchange rate. You met an exchange rate of about N197, now we are talking N360; excuse me sir; excuse me sir. You met fuel price of N87 now we are talking N200 actually. It is only N145 in Lagos and Abuja; in Enugu it is N220; in Borno there are reports that it is N230 and N240. In the filling station there you pay and get a receipt; I have a receipt for N220. If want to see them I produce them. The N145 that you are talking about is an artificial price maintained in Lagos and Abuja for political deceit and the difference goes to corruption. Don’t be deceived. Now, look at the final one, public debt. Total public debt has continued to double and government has continued to borrow recklessly and unpatriotically. And that’s why I say that there is a deliberate plan to destroy the country. Destroy its laws; destroy its economy; disunite the people and destroy the people through insecurity. That’s why I say there is a deliberate plan by government to destroy this country and I am shocked that it took Nigerians three years to realise that. I published it in 2015 that they are destroying our country. I can have dual citizenship. I used to have American working permit. I can relocate to Canada using the highly-skilled person’s migration programme. I cannot be the worst hit in Nigeria but this is my country I am not a Canadian, I am a Nigerian. It is my responsibility given by God and man to defend this country; I cannot allow these people to destroy the future of over 200 million people. If the average Nigerian has my kind of resolve we will chase these people away.

Now you are talking about people having your kind of resolve; what is your candid advice to the electorate as we go into the elections?

To me that’s not the priority. Do you know why? The electorate should go and vote but what’s the use of a vote that is not counted? So, it is about patriotism. The ten thousand criminals that dominate politics in Nigeria cannot overwhelm 200 million of us. But what do they do? They divide us. They bribe law enforcement officials; they bribe media practitioners, they bribe INEC officials and the seize power. That’s what they do. They also recruit thugs to kill and intimidate those who oppose them. You go out to vote, and you are attacked by mob. It is an ‘arrangee’ thing. And they use the media to broadcast that your people have rejected you; it is not true. It is false. They hire criminal thugs to attack you; that’s what they do. And you have seen the desperation in Kaduna. Your party members, a faction that all you need to do is to make contact for reconciliation; you went and demolished their secretariat. Has that happened before? No warning, no demolition notice? The office was established on Thursday, you demolished it on Monday. Three nights. Where is that done and you get away with it and some media people will tell you he’s the best material for governorship. I am a Christian, if you go to the Bible, that’s one of the worst things that can happen to an individual in society. There’s a curse in the Bible- ‘woe to those who call evil good’. This government, after we made our presentations in 2015, the super-brilliant, Dr. Femi Aribisala, published an essay titled ‘The worst government in Nigeria’, since 2016, how is it that people cannot read and know that this is obvious.

Aribisala published it; is he a member, of the opposition? Is he also partisan?

He is a professional journalist. He is not a member of any political party or a member of any opposition party to the best of my knowledge. So, why is it that Nigeria cannot recognise the tactics of these people because everybody is looking for what is in it for me, they don’t care about their wives, their children and their future, they don’t care about their parents, their cousins and they don’t care about their countrymen, which is a perverted value system. Of course, once we come to the right philosophy, that if the society is good it is in my interest; when we come to that right philosophy, everybody will begin to defend the country just like the Americans defend America; because they realise that if America thrives they thrive. But in Nigeria, we have become very materialistic; very egoistic, very individualistic and very unscrupulous; which is why a governor can easily go and demolish the secretariat of the faction of his party. If he cannot reconcile with them, the he should try to get more followers than them. That’s shows you the level of depravity that is entrenched in this society.

It was reported a few days ago that the 2019 elections may have been pre-rigged by the underage registration in some parts of the country; what is the opposition doing about it?

No, the elections have been rigged; don’t even go there; in the 2015 election, two weeks before that election, a national newspaper published the result. I also went an announced that the elections had been pre-rigged, and a national newspaper carried it with the exact words that I used.
In Nigeria, where regional and religious interests are still strong, some candidates are strong in their regions and what did Jega’s INEC do? They disenfranchised fourteen (14) million people officially according to INEC. Sixty nine (69) million registered voters, but there were only fifty five (55) PVCs, 14 million disenfranchised officially; the media did not raise alarm. The 14 million that were disenfranchised were from regions that Jega and his INEC did not want to produce the president. Who has been dominating in power in Nigeria? The data cannot lie from 1960, October I, to May 2019 – the South East has produced a head of government for less than six months in the period. The North West has produced about 31 percent; and the North West has the highest number of presidential aspirants to date. So, is that not a case of political domination? Is that acceptable? Democracy is representative. As at today, if you count people who have declared interest for 2019, Kano State alone has about five people and that is North West. Are they not insensitive? Do they not realise that we are all equal citizens in the same country?

How would you respond to the gale of killings going on across the country, particularly the attitude of the Federal Government towards the massacres in some states, mainly Benue?

The Commander-in-Chief is derelict in his duty and he needs to be formally indicted by the National Assembly even if we don’t carry it all the way to impeachment. The calling on him to act is even evidence that he is already derelict; because nobody will call on you to act if you have been active. These things have been admitted. The government itself is completely incompetent, and its corruptions affected the national security establishment. You can see the comments of very high-ranking government officials and those comments did not elicit any disciplinary action from the commander-in-chief. The Minister of Defence made in unpatriotic and intolerable comment; the IG of Police made very unpatriotic and intolerable comment. And that led to an ordinary PPRO making an intolerable comment; he should be dismissed from the force because he is too small to make those of comments. Why has there been no corrective action against these officials? It is evidence of complicity, hand of Esau, voice of Jacob. The Commander-in-Chief is clearly derelict in his duty and has failed himself, failed his family and failed this country.