An elder statesman and ardent advocate of good governance, justice and equity, Dr. Moses Iloh, says President Muhammadu Buhari is being slowed down in governance by being careful not to hurt leaders of his political party, the . In this interview with SUNDAY ODIBASHI, he advocates that the President should focus more on fighting “the Corrupt”, who he said, want to break up Nigeria. He expresses the view that the time for Biafra has not come.
THERE have been contentious debates over the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari in the past one year, what is your own view?
President Muhammadu Buhari has done extremely well in the past one year.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) was hurriedly put together for the 2015 general elections. The party leaders didn’t know themselves very well before they went into government. That is an internal problem. To have a cohesive political party, you have to be with yourselves for years; but these are political parties or interests that came together with different objectives, different private and hidden agendas and formed APC. To manage that kind of party is not easy because you have enemies within and enemies without. It is not easy to come together in this manner and you are handling a problem like Nigeria. For the party leaders to have been able to keep together and manage this country for one year, I congratulate them and wish them a better tomorrow.
Buhari is handling a country that is so corrupt.
Look at corruption from spoiling, not just taking money. An example of how wicked a Nigerian can be: a Nigerian takes dollars, travels overseas, gives to some foreigners to produce fake drugs. He sells the fake drugs to his fellow Nigerians. Some die because of it, some get very sick so you can make quick money and become rich overnight. You are a murderer. That is why they are desperate to destroy Nigeria.
Secondly, forgery has become rampant. When you forge a degree certificate, somebody gets a job with it; he knows he is fake person and he is a liar. He has been corrupted and he will continue to corrupt people who are close to him. This is what we need to tackle.
Do you consider this an easy task for the President?
The Buhari administration, for the first year, has tried to tackle “the corrupt” not corruption. The government has not started yet because corruption is a monster.
In the little tackling of the corrupt, the corrupt, deliberately or consciously, are teaming together to use their stolen wealth to destroy Nigeria. So, the corrupt want to break up Nigeria so that there will be nobody to arrest them. If tomorrow morning we wake up, the Niger Delta is gone, Biafra is gone, no more Nigeria, then, what Nigeria did they steal from. They cruise back home conveniently with all their looted money; the Nigeria that they have stolen from does not exist.
The Federal Government must know that the corrupt are very strong, very wealthy and wicked, evil; must know that the only thing they can do to make them escape punishment is to break up Nigeria. So, whether they are Niger Delta Avengers or whatever militants, all is targeted at breaking up Nigeria.
Now, everybody is shouting restructure Nigeria, we want true federalism, true democracy; the main reason behind these advocacies is to weaken the entity called Nigeria.
Where have they been all these years? So, it is imperative for the federal government to know that the corrupt will stop at nothing until they dismember Nigeria. Buhari should look for a way now to urgently fight the corrupt, not corruption. Corruption can be looked after by the Police. He can empower the Police to fight corruption but the greatest enemy Nigeria has today is the corrupt.
Are you not contradicting the idea of Buhari increasing the price of petrol than fighting the elite who refused to let the refineries work and exploiting Nigerians through importation of petrol?
If he tries to do that, there will be no petrol in Nigeria, those elite will stop everything. They have so much money, they are the subsidy cabal; they have gone far. There are still some places they are selling petrol for N150 per litre; is that the government. The government should seal any petrol station selling above N145 per litre and punish the fellow; but nobody is doing that. Some of petrol dealers are doctoring their metres.
Meanwhile, the fight is still there. What government is trying to do through price increase is still right.
I also expect the government, in fighting the corrupt, to have special courts for corruption.
Once they accuse a man of corruption, that court takes up the case. The federal government should select tough judges that have integrity, if it means paying them special salaries or allowances just to make them comfortable. Their job is to do what the law says, expedite judicial processes and apportion appropriate sanctions, where necessary. Imagine a corrupt Nigerian is on trial is telling you he doesn’t want this judge to try him, this judge should disqualify himself.
Get a special court to do away with corruption cases. Then, get the Police, send officers on refresher courses or get some of the young graduates, train them in detective and criminal investigations, pay them well. They should go on the street, anywhere they see a building rising to high heavens, quietly go behind, find out who is the owner, how did he get the permit, where is the money coming from. Not the issue of the EFCC making noise, send the federal intelligence, meet the person, question him, this project, how are you financing it. If not satisfied; the Police or EFCC should be involved for further investigations.
Today, the easiest way to hide stolen money in Nigeria is to build five, six stories buildings in the name of somebody else. That somebody else should also tell the public how he got that money.
There are so many things you can do, yet, run the government. But the way it is going now, you have to pay so much attention on corruption because they will want to fight back.
They retired some military officers and people are shouting of ethnic cheating. Corruption is all over the place. So, government has done very well. If Nigerians want corruption to die, they should fight corruption. Fighting corruption is not just government’s responsibility; it is the responsibility of Nigerians. But to fight corruption, we need government to do things right.
The economy is going down, things getting more difficult; do you agree with critics that APC government has lost control of the economy?
Things must be difficult. I feel sorry for the poor. So many people today are suffering. Who is making Nigerians suffer, the corrupt. They are very powerful. They are strong enough to confront the government.
Now, the government has to work out something, get experts on public policies in a developing economy. On agriculture, get anybody who has started a farm project, give him loan, it may eventually be written off but government must make sure they can’t easily write it off; provide equipments for mechanized farming. Research institutes, faculties of agriculture in universities, the professors, get them to develop technologies for mechanized agriculture and food processing.
The mistake we often make when we say government, everybody is talking about the federal government; what are the states and local governments doing. Everything is Abuja, everything Buhari; that is wrong. The states should be involved in national development. Nothing stops them from getting foreign investors in agriculture; if they need any clearance from the federal government, let them ask.
Why are we not starting from the local governments, if it is in difficulty, it goes to the state, if the state is in difficulty, it goes to the federal government. But nothing is happening at the local level. They keep building houses that the poor man cannot afford to buy, the poor are dying away; they can’t even afford to bury the dead.
Secondly, the economy is in difficulty, why can’t states provide welfare services for citizens within their respective jurisdictions. Nigerians have suffered enough.
Do you think the uprising of ethnic militias also contributes to the dwindling economy?
All these people bombing oil facilities, they don’t know what they are doing. The crude oil was not deposited there by their parents. I am so happy when I heard that Lagos has discovered oil deposit in Badagry because Lagos is a civilized state, they won’t have the conscience to bomb it.
These things should be done with the consideration of the ordinary man, the poor people in the Niger Delta. The economy cannot function in atmosphere of insecurity or social instability.
The Niger Delta Avengers are now considering the dialogue offer, do you find this inspiring in resolving the crisis? We can resolve it. Some people like me; we are going to ask God to stop the violence in the Niger Delta. And we will place a curse on the oil and it won’t be long, when they go to extract, they will not find the oil.
God deposited the crude oil there as a blessing to Nigeria, He didn’t deposit it there for people to destroy it. He could have deposited the oil in Jos or Sokoto. Nobody told God to deposit the oil in the Niger Delta. One day, there will be a prophesy and that oil will dry up. One day, it is going to happen that something will drive the drill down and see nothing. If what God has given us has become a curse, then, it will be taken away; God’s blessing does not cause tears.
So, they should be careful. They should negotiate and make their feelings known, stop destroying what you did not create.
All of them saying they were militants; they are all very rich people; no one of them is poor. So, they should be very careful how they handle natural resources in their land. They should think again and remember that what they are destroying is a gift of God. God can dry it up and what can they do.
Are you aware the militants are protesting that government neglected development in their areas?
Which government neglected them; don’t they have state governments. Why don’t they hold their governors responsible, why is everybody talking of the federal government always. The fact is that since the federal government is fighting the corrupt, the corrupt is putting pressure on them to destabilize the government.
The people that are complaining of Biafra, don’t they have governors who ruined their states; why not protest the failures of the governors. Since this government is out to fight corruption, they are all rising up to fight government. The situation in the South East is very pathetic. The fund allocated to local governments, they just share it and pocket them. The local governments are not doing anything.
Would you then say the Biafra agitation is not justified?
Biafra agitation is not justified; I don’t support it. If Nigeria wants to break, let the leaders meet at a round table and negotiate. When I was a boy, I was a very active Zikist Movement member; I was in the NEPU alliance with the NCNC. One day we went to Zik, then, Nigeria was under colonial rule. We said Sir, next week we are going to protest this colonial rule. He was watching us; we cited several revolutionary philosophies and Marxist axioms. He said, good my children, but let me tell you something. He said, there is a woman; that woman is so rich; she has children and she has enough for all the children; should any child die for her; we said no. Then, he said, my children, Nigeria is a woman, very rich in everything and would not want one of her children to die for her. Since then, I have never joined any demonstration. When you demonstrate, the Police will shoot you and you will die for nothing. People think it is cowardice, it is wisdom. If people saw what happened during the Nigerian Civil War, they won’t talk of war. I was there from the beginning to the end. It was the most brutal. They are complaining, when their governors were stealing the money, making themselves billionaires, what did they do to protest and kick them out. They steal, give them small money, and they vote for them. Now, they are telling you to fight for Biafra.
The corrupt are prompting them to protest. I feel sorry for the poor boys that are being shot dead by the military. There is no way that will happen; the timing is wrong. If Nigeria wants to break, let Nigerians go to a roundtable to negotiate and decide to break. The ordinary Nigerian is the one suffering. The timing is not right, and the approach is not right. The elders should intervene and see what can be done to calm everybody down. The time for Biafra has not come.
You admitted Nigerians are suffering, do you think the APC government can still make Nigeria work?
They can if Nigerians help them. No government succeeds without the people. Buhari is not a god, he is not a spirit, he cannot do what he cannot do. He is a leader. It is like a football team, Buhari is the captain of the team. He cannot win the match himself. He may score no goal and other team players will score. At the end, the trophy is handed to him as captain of the victorious team. In this fight in Nigeria today, Buhari is our captain. Every Nigerian should play according to rules and we will win the war against corruption. Today, with all the efforts the government is making, corruption is still there. If Nigerians want corruption to die and they cooperate, in three months, corruption will become history in this country.
Some have said Buhari is slow, do you agree?
I refuse to agree that Buhari is slow. Instead, I will say when you start a race, if you are running and looking back, you can’t win that race. Buhari is trying to play according to the law, he is very careful because everybody around him is setting a trap for him. If he jumps once, tomorrow, you will hear they have impeached him. Nigerians don’t know that Buhari faces high risk of impeachment. The same corrupt people are in the Senate, champions of corruption. We have very honourable corrupt people in the House of Representatives. You will think that they support Buhari, they don’t like the fight against corruption. So, Buahri is trying to do his best being careful. When you are being careful, you will be slow; you won’t run full bone. If it was a military regime, in the past one year, Nigeria would have changed because you promulgate a decree, things will happen. Now, he is swallowing certain things which under normal circumstances, he will not.
The people around Buhari are dangerous. If you want to fight the corrupt, they are very smart, very rich, very desperate; they are killers.
So, you won’t support Buhari to look beyond the APC in appointing people to help him manage the economy?
Not just looking beyond APC, Buhari should look for good advisers, even if they are expatriates; those who can help him to do what he needs to do. But he should not ignore APC, APC will drown him. That is a risky thing for him. Rather, APC should make a sacrifice to support the President; not for the President to bend for APC.
Are you saying APC leaders are not cooperating with Buhari?
I don’t think they are. Though, I cannot prove it but if you are running a race and turning back, being careful, then, it means that the problem, your fear, is your party. So, you are being careful so that your party will not choke you. If the APC comes out wholeheartedly to support Buhari, he will move faster. I suspect that his being very careful is not to hurt the party, so, he cannot move fast.
Would you consider the beheading of Christians in the North by Muslims for blasphemy of Islam as a threat to national integration?
Well, all the elders, leaders of the diverse belief systems, will beg the Muslims to remove killing of human beings from their religion. I don’t think anybody has a right to kill anybody for what he believes in. As long as you keep killing people, that is a serious threat to national integration. I have a copy of the Quran here in my office and I am looking to see if it is clear that Islam says kill people. Then, we should now appeal to them, even, if it means going to Saudi Arabia, to beg them to stop killing people. Allow people to live their lives.