Seye Ogunlewe, former minister of Works and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview speaks about the 48 ministerial nominees selected by President Bola Tinubu, ECOWAS threat to Niger, among other issues. Iniobong Iwok brings the excerpts:
Nigerians expected that the cost of governance should be reduced considering the huge challenges facing the country but were surprised that President Tinubu presented 48 ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation; what are your thoughts about that?
It depends on the usefulness of the nominees and the programmes of the party. The programme of the party is extensive to the extent that it needs a lot more personnel to manage the Renewed Hope programmes. In managing Renewed Hope there must be a little bit of decentralisation of the existing structure to maximise efficiency and prosperity for the country.
Let us see how President Bola Tinubu will use these intellectuals. There are about 10 medical doctors there, and about 10 lawyers. There are also Information Technology (IT) experts that can contribute their talent to national development. So, let us see how the President uses them and what they have to offer before we begin to judge. The way I see them, I think that they will fit appropriately into the expectations of the President.
Some states are not happy with the ministerial nominees list, they have complained that some zones in their states were marginalised, for example, Delta State complained that Delta Central got the two nominees from the state while the other zones were left out. What is your view about that?
I like the way the Senate President handled the matter. He said that he will present the case to the President for consideration. It is not a very serious matter. I think it is something that can be resolved. I think it is not intentional and it won’t endanger the party or the country.
Again, looking at the ministerial list some people say that it’s a compensation list rather than selection of people based on competence. They said that the President has promised to select Nigerians that are competent to run the government but were shocked that he has actually selected people who have helped him to win election for the purpose of compensation. Can you react to that?
If we talk about education now, who is going to fit into your programme to implement the policy of the party as enumerated in the manifesto of the party or as will be added by a committee? I can assure you that Bola Tinubu is a team player. There will be so many people who will be behind the scene to prepare additional policies that he will now take to the minister to implement. He may not allow these ministers to take advantage of the situation and put up their own manifesto against the manifesto of the party.
It is the party’s responsibility to provide leadership, and at the end of the day is the party that will be injured if things don’t work out. People didn’t vote for any minister, so the party should not rely on the competence of the minister. The competence of the minister will be determined by the way he or she interprets the manifesto of the party to the benefit of the people.
The APC members in Rivers State are hurting. They said that they held, nurtured the party for so many years in the state and now that it is time for them to reap, somebody who is not even a member of the party is coming to take their place, that is former Governor Nyesom Wike. What can you say about that?
There are other agencies that will be available to be filled, about 2,800 of them. They will be totally accommodated. They shouldn’t worry at all. My concern is that the President should take advantage of our strength to grow the country.
Number one, is our large population. The President should take advantage of our large population to benefit Nigeria, Africa and the world, just as they have done in India and China. Our population should not be a disadvantage. It should be an advantage. The President should call the Registrar of JAMB, Oloyede, those in TETFund, and create an education bank which is already under process.
How many people are applying to study medicine in Nigeria? About 3,500 of them, these are the people that will bring a lot of development in terms of industrialization. How many people will be trained as technicians? Like the carpenters, artisans. I and President Bola Tinubu discussed this matter in 1999, about technical education. Middle level manpower is very important in the development of a nation.
These are the people who drive the infrastructure, that is the wealth of the nation, and not just people with Bachelor of Science (BSc.). The middle manpower is very important, if you go to any hotel or company, they are the ones who keep the industry going, not the managers.
I mean the artisans, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders. Let us have two technical colleges in every state of the federation. Let us train our people, it is achievable. We need to plan for our educational system. It doesn’t happen by accident. How many people applied for these courses? They are our people. They are Nigerians. Nigerians are too brilliant to be ignored all over the world. People treat us anyhow as if we don’t belong to the world
The way you just analysed these things now is the reason people have suggested that the President in sending the ministerial nominees list to the senate for screening and confirmation should also attach portfolios to them so that the lawmakers can ask them questions in areas that relate to their offices, don’t you think it will give room for better performance?
He knows where to assign them. Maybe subsequently because it has to be passed into law. If it is not passed into law, it cannot be enforced. If they change the constitution and say so, fine. Let it be legalised. The National Assembly can assist us by formalising it. They said that between 60 days the President should send the ministerial list, so they can also add that in the nomination, he must attach the portfolios. He will comply if they do that.
Nigerians are concerned about a possible war with Niger over the coup there, considering the fact that President Bola Tinubu is the chairman of the regional body. Nigeria doesn’t have the resources to go to war now, what are your thoughts?
We cannot afford war now. We don’t have the resources and our people will not withstand any form of war now. I listened to ambassadors all over the world, who are competent and very exposed. They should call a meeting of Nigeria ambassadors. They will explain facts about all these policies. We can learn from them. International relations, international policy is a profession, and we need to listen to professionals.
Call the experts, there are many of them in Nigeria who can be assembled and they will give their views. You may not take everything that they say but you can learn from them.
They know the implications and they will give suggestions. People in the Ministry of External Affairs and even the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) have scholars who are studying there; it is like an institution, so they can give advice on the implications. But not advice from expatriates. France, Germany, NATO, and America will always consider their own interests first. Their interest will not be the interest of our people.
It is dangerous to listen to external people. We should listen to our people more because they know the implications. Tinubu has started doing that already. He has listened to the five governors in the north already. He has also listened to the sentiments of the northerners because 40 percent of the population are their own people, and they will find it difficult to fight war. They won’t want to fight a proxy war that is not their war