Chief Martin Onovo, Presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in 2015, and a member of Movement for Fundamental Change, decries what he considered as arbitrariness in the governance of the country by the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with SUNDAY ODIBASHI, Onovo accuses the APC-Government of losing focus in the management of the economy.
COUNTING down to May 29 when the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government will be one year in office, what is your assessment of the Government so far?
I will use four words starting with the letter “D” to describe the APC-Government. First, the APC government is very directionless. As at today, you cannot call out three of those cabinet ministers to give you the precise economic direction of the federal government. So, the government has no direction. The government doesn’t just lack economic direction, it lacks political direction, lacks social direction and lacks overall national direction. Since independence in 1960, Nigerians have never seen any political party as destructive as APC. The APC is the most destructive phenomenon to confront the Nigerian people. We must all come to realize the danger that the APC-led Federal Government is destructive. Otherwise, we will all bear the consequences; we will all suffer the consequences of being silence.
APC government is also divisive, APC is dictatorial. In a democracy, people cannot harbour dictatorship; it is the direct opposite of democracy. Democracy is what the majority is thinking of, not what one primitive tyrant imposes on us.
There are many things that are happening now that never happened before. The APC violates the constitution with impunity. There is no major provision of the constitution that APC has not violated.
I hear some APC leaders say Nigerian constitution should be suspended. That shows how lawless APC members are. When you come from that satanic philosophical perspective, the amount of destruction you can unleash goes beyond control.
It is catastrophic. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was a calamity in governance; the APC is a total catastrophe in governance. Talking about the purpose of government according to the Nigerian Constitution, there is the security and welfare of about 200 million people at stake. It is a major global issue. To jeopardize the security and welfare of 200 million Nigerians is a global issue.
What do you mean by this?
If we go to the fundamentals of democracy, the difference between human society and the jungle is law. In the jungle, there is no law, might is right; the lion comes, the antelope takes off. It doesn’t matter whether the lion is guilty or not. In the human society, there are laws and nobody is above the law. APC is not above the law, their Department of Security Service (DSS), EFCC are not above the law.
Buhari swore by the Nigerian constitution – the grand norm – to abide by the constitution but does otherwise. If there is no constitution, he has no power. He swore with the Qur’an, except he swore falsely on the Qur’an, to comply with the constitution; he must comply, we are not going to beg him to comply, he is under oath to do so. There are consequences for violating the provisions of the constitution.
Now, let us use a few constitutional provisions that have been violated with impunity. Impunity is the worst form of lawlessness. The constitution provides that you cannot discriminate against anybody; he also swore to treat all Nigerians equally without fear or favour. The President chose not to comply with this provision.
How has this been violated?
It has not only been violated, the President also went further, in America, to make discriminatory statement that people who gave him five per cent votes in the Presidential election cannot expect to be treated like people who gave him 90 per cent. That is discrimination. The attitude of going to say publicly that the judiciary is the problem of the anti-corruption war is extremely reckless and lawless. What is the role of the judiciary – to adjudicate and ensure equity and fairness within the law. The foundation is the law. So, you cannot make defamation of the law. The same judiciary Buhari is saying is his headache is arm twisted by the executive. So, we in the opposition are saying Buhari is the problem because he doesn’t even understand the fundamental principle of justice. An unbiased judge is the bedrock of the fundamental principle of justice.
Sambo Dasuki is already guilty because Buhari pronounced him guilty even before prosecution commenced. They should face him in court; let the judge pronounce him guilty. The executive cannot convict anybody; DSS lacks the power to convict anybody. Remove the law, there is no DSS. They are creation of the law. EFCC cannot violate the law because it is the law that established it. DSS, EFCC did not establish themselves. So, the blind cannot lead the clear sighted; leadership is fundamental.
Again, Buhari while on vacation in London said in a media interview that s he didn’t know why he became at this time. Such statement can only come from a leader who is clueless; change is not a luxury. The leader must do something differently to make change happen. Indeed, this is the best time to be President of Nigeria; there is no better time than now. May be he has to resign.
Section 171(5), Federal Character, is violated completely. It says that the government of Nigeria must be constituted so as to reflect the federal character and promote national unity. Buhari made his initial 37 federal appointments, 30 of them were northerners. People raised alarm. He is not President of Daura, Nigeria is not Daura. If he wants to be President of Nigeria, the whole country is his constituency. Now, he violated that with impunity. Only when the uproar became unbearable for him that he said it will be reversed in subsequent appointments but at that time he has made all the critical appointments into the main engine of government. So, he has excluded certain parts of the country from critical positions of political leadership. These are the fundamentals on which Nigeria was built.
In the past, we have done many things to unite the country. We introduced NYSC, Unity Schools; we made our electoral laws such that political parties must have national spread. APC government has destroyed all these. How can Nnamdi Kanu become an issue in Nigeria? Kanu is a distraction.
It is because of Buhari’s lack of leadership ability. Action speaks louder than voice; some people even talk of body language. You exclude the South East from government; then, what Kanu did is to take advantage of that. The anchor of the Biafra agitation is that since Buhari doesn’t want us to be in Nigeria, we should go our way. So, what prompted the Biafra agitation is Buhari. When you do a root cause analysis, Kanu and his group are reacting to Buhari’s actions. Why was there no Biafra agitation during the Yar’Adua administration or under Jonathan? Why is it that Buhari came, within few months, there is Biafra agitation; because he has taken actions that are contrary to the constitution and try to exclude a whole region of the country. This is a region that has been marginalized for too long. IPOB reacted to the provocation. Biafra agitation is reaction to the provocation of the APC government. That is why the government is very divisive.
Are you not aware the President has exclusive powers over federal appointments?
Those exclusive powers must comply with the constitution; they are powers given to him by the constitution. The constitution is the control mechanism in the social contract between the President and the Nigerian people.
In the national security leadership, the entire military high command, Buhari made specific appointments. Any nationalistic leader making those critical security appointments should share those positions in the six zones, he didn’t. Again, Buhari excluded the South East. So, why do you think that those you have discriminated against should clap for you? That is what we have seen. Now, APC government is trying to destroy the law, the constitution of Nigeria.
Though, the AMCON example is not in the constitution, it is in the AMCON Act. The President cannot reconstitute the board of AMCON without Senate’s approval. That is violation of the law. He must obey the rule of law. The rule of law is the pillar of democracy, you can’t do without it. Once you exclude the rule of law, you are no longer under a democracy. The rule of law is the integrity of the ballot. Even the integrity of the ballot is as defined by the law. If a 10-year old votes, it is not a lawful vote; he shouldn’t have been registered because the constitution pegs voting age at 18. APC is destroying the foundation of the country; destroying public morality. I hope they do not collapse Nigeria.
How is the APC destroying public morality?
APC has made deceit an official policy of government. APC campaign promises are deceitful. The signature of John Oyegun is on the APDC manifesto. The promises APC made in its 2015 election manifesto are all false; they are not achievable, they are all outrageous. They promised three million new jobs per year. In May, we will ask for the first three million jobs. Meanwhile, nearly one million Nigerians have already lost their jobs under the APC government. On Security, APC promised to employ at least 100,000 Police officers; how many has APC employed. They promised to introduce immediate pay rise for all security services. Now, one year is coming to an end, nothing has been done. After one year, it is still not immediate in a four years tenure. On Youths, APC promised to provide interest free loans for university and technical colleges graduates. On education, APC promised to introduce a free daily meal for all children in primary schools. On poverty, APC promised to introduce direct monthly social security payment to 25 million poorest Nigerians. Which of these is true, everything here is false. On Health, APC promised to provide free services and drugs in hospitals. All are deceit to acquire power.
So, in the four letter “D” I talked about earlier, the APC is deceitful; APC is divisive, APC is dictatorial and completely destructive. These are the foundation of APC government. If the foundation is destroyed, there will never be food on the table of anybody.
Do these make the situation hopeless?
Now, APC promised welfare to the Nigerian people, they are now doing extortion. They have started maintenance charge on our bank accounts; they introduced stamp duty on our accounts. They are going to our accounts to take our money. They have announced that they will re-introduce toll gates; they have announced increment in electricity tariff. They have started a kind of extortion which they call taxation, it is not taxation but extortion. It is a violation of the law, completely outside the law. So, the situation gets hopeless every day.
The worse is public morality. When the philosophy of government is deceit, propaganda and more lies, there is nowhere else we are heading for than leadership disaster. Government constitutes the leadership and the followers follow what the leaders say. So, they must be checkmated. I am calling on all Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves; It is now about self defence. We must get the APC to follow the right direction or leave government. APC behaves as if we are not in a democracy. They are threatening everybody, blackmailing the judiciary, blackmailing everybody to submission and leading us with lies. You can see the hidden philosophy of extortion of the APC government from the examples I have given. That is what their Minister of Information will never tell Nigerians. That is what they are doing, not service delivery. The Nigerian people have been overburdened. Any additional burden is genocidal.
Don’t you think the APC-Government is responding to the decline in price of crude oil and fall in revenue?
Not at all; check the 2016 budget. It clearly shows the government is not responding to any decline in price of crude oil. If the government is responding to decline in revenue, the 2015 budget was about N4.6 trillion, the 2016 budget is over N6.8 trillion. It should have been lower if government was responding to revenue decline. The APC government is tasking Nigerians. The President said Nigeria is broke which is false. Nigeria is not broke. Dr. Abubakar Suleiman said that the President lied. He said their government left over $30 billion for the APC Government and, therefore, saying that Nigeria is broke is false. He was very clear in his language that President Buhari lied.
If Nigeria is broke now that APC is in government, Nigeria was not broke in 2015, you came and Nigeria became broke, when did they spend the money. When he came in 1984, that was the same statement he made after the coup against Shehu Shagari; then, he comes back in 2015 and making that statement of 31 years ago. So, you can understand how dysfunctional the APC logic is. If Nigeria is broke, we expect APC to make a budget of less than 2015 budget. APC is a perverse government, fundamentally deceitful.
Are you saying the 2016 budget is incongruent with realities?
Certainly so; Now, APC wants to borrow N2.2 trillion to finance the budget; that is almost 40 per cent of the budget. The capital vote is just 30 per cent. So, they are borrowing in excess of the 30 per cent to finance recurrent expenditure. It doesn’t make sense. This is the most perverse organization on earth and the most destructive social force that has confronted Nigeria since 1960. So, you are borrowing money to waste, then, plunge Nigeria into debt crisis. One can only imagine the consequences when we remember the Greece debt crisis.
Does that imply Nigeria’s debt is becoming unmanageable?
The country is already owing billions of dollars and they are going to borrow another N2.2 trillion, what are the repayment plans. There must be repayment plan.
Check the budget allocation for the Presidency. The NATION newspaper, in their editorial wrote that the budget makes Dr. Goodluck Jonathan look like a saint. How much does this old man use to feed that they allocated over N1.7 billion for food. Check how much is budgeted for recreation, about N730 million; yet, they tell Nigerians there is no money. Check allocations for kitchen utensils, IT, computer renewals. There is nothing more deceitful and destructive than that budget. The APC budget lacks coherent framework for development.
Everybody is shouting, including Dr. Emeka Anyaoku, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as the opposition, saying don’t borrow to fund recurrent expenditures. The President is increasing recurrent expenditure. In Nigeria today, there is no ethical intellectual that is supporting the APC government. From Professor Pat Utomi to Emir Abubakar Sanusi II, Emir of Knao, Professor Charles Soludo, and others, are opposed to the economic policies of Buhari. They are even APC supporters. That is to show that the ethical intellectuals know what is going on. There is no ethical intellectual that is backing Buhari because they have seen that these policies are totally deceitful and destructive.
If you had the opportunity, what would you have done differently to make Nigeria work?
Very simple; we already said what we were going to do when we were campaigning. We campaigned from realistic superior moral and intellectual positions. We said we will cut down the recurrent expenditure. There is so much waste in the recurrent expenditure. That is why we said we are going to take more money from there, then, we will put it in capital expenditure. More importantly, we would have reactivated Nigeria’s production capacity and reduce imports. The major way to turn Nigeria’s economy around is to encourage production in the domestic economy, then, create employment from the production and distribution chains.
We didn’t make frivolous promises like one million houses every year. That will cost about N10 trillion, where will APC get the money. The housing policy alone will gulp about N10 trillion, how do you fund it. These are deceitful promises. You have not paid pension to the senior citizens, you want to give their grand children free meals in school; yet, they have not paid teachers’ salaries. The children will come to school, eat free food and go home. Let them pay the teachers. APC governors can’t pay civil servants their salaries. Rochas Okorocha is behaving like his master, Buhari. He said Imo State is broke. APC is a problem to this country. In Osun State, Aregbesola is looking for bailout to pay salaries. What did he use state funds for? They wasted state money to fund Buhari’s election. How was APC election funded, Nigerians need to know? The Buhari Campaign Organization spent more money than what is being revealed in the Dasukigate. The APC outspent the PDP in the Presidential election, where did they get their own money.
The difference we were also going to make, we were not going to borrow any money because Nigeria is already bleeding in debt crisis. In that budget, there is about N1.3 trillion for debt servicing. When you borrow N2.2 trillion, how much will the debt servicing rise to. Automatically, Nigeria cannot last two more years if the APC is allowed to get away with what they are planning against Nigerians. Nigeria will have serious debt crisis latest in 2018. Obasanjo has seen it. Obasanjo has made the statement as an elder statesman that APC should not borrow to fund the budget. He supported the APC and Buhari. So, some statesmen are now speaking up. Obasanjo has grown bigger than being partisan. He supported Buhari in the election, now, he has told the APC President, don’t borrow to fund the budget.
Another patriot, Senator Shehu Musa, a top APC member from Kaduna State, said that Buhari is using anti-corruption war to play politics. He is not fighting corruption, he is playing politics. So, you can see it is not an opposition thing. Let us save Nigeria, let us stop APC from destroying Nigeria.