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‘Anti-Corruption Shouldn’t Be Buhari’s Main Focus’

The agitation for Biafra has assumed a serious dimension. What is your take as a stakeholder? I think the agitation has got to the stage now where it will seem to be difficult to stop and call it back. But it is not impossible to call it back. It’s all about what the president can do, how he can talk to the nation, how he can reach out to the people of Southeast and South-south, what he can offer them. Some of these people agitating are not really agitating out of hatred; they are agitating out of frustration. These are highly skilled men and women who do not have jobs. A lot of them are abroad to work in places they would not have loved to work and they are not happy. So when they see a president that hasn’t given appointments to people in the southeast, they feel cheated and left out. So the agitation is not unexpected but it should be handled in a way that we can bring these people back into the system. Secession will be too big a disadvantage in my opinion to the Nigerian project. And also, Igbo leaders need to sit up; I have not heard the voices of Igbo leaders. I don’t know whether they feel that they had been caught unaware, they need to speak up and tell those involved to calm down. We had been through this Biafra thing before; it was disastrous. Let us do everything we can do to avoid what happened before. We know that you are upset, but we will find solution.

What do you make of President Buhari’s ministerial nominees in view of the change mantra of this administration? The truth is that change is very difficult. It’s very difficult to change the way things are. We really must understand that much as we want these changes, these changes must be gradual and they must be calculated. There are so many forces against change and there are so many things that have been embedded in the culture of politicians, leaders and people in government in Nigeria. That you expect such change automatically would be impossibility. Now, take for example, there must have been people that assisted the president in winning the presidency, he may have made promises, he may have not made promises but he might have found out that during the course of his negotiation to appoint the people he wanted, it was becoming impossible because the politicians felt that they had made sacrifices and some of them, in deed, had made sacrifices against the odds because the odds were stacked against the APC. You can’t make those people unnecessarily irrelevant. That would show a president that doesn’t have a heart or a president that doesn’t understand. And when you look at his ministerial list, most of the people he nominated are people who actually performed well in their states. I know there have been a lot of allegations against Fashola but these are allegations and we all know that Fashola, to a certain extent has been one of the best governors that Lagos State has seen. So anybody that will fault his appointment as a politician would really have to tell us why. Going to Rivers State, apart from the fact that Rotimi Amaechi, joined APC against the will of so many people there, did he not do well for roads, did he not do well for schools? I think we should give them a chance, see what happens over two-year period and don’t forget, we ‘ve got the option of voting this government out in 2019, if we are not happy with their performance. They would want to go for another term and for that reason, they will try and do their best and against the current economic problems, I’m sure they will find a way to impress Nigerians.

In the last few months President Buhari had made a number of appointments, which elicited reactions particularly from the Southeast who are saying that the zone has been alienated from the scheme of things at the centre. Do you share this position? Yes, I do share it. I do feel that the Southeast has been over looked to a certain extent. But we must also understand why

Why? We are dealing with a different president here who has a different mindset. What former president Goodluck Jonathan did by including everybody and trying to be the president of all of Nigeria, at the end of the day did not work for him, it did not win him re-election. Now, my politics 101 tells me that that formula is not going to work for Buhari. So, if you want to win your next election, you look deeply into where you got your support base. Now, I’m not saying that that is right but I’m trying to understand the way his mind is thinking. And you do everything you can to ensure that where your support base is, is where you are going to focus your attention and that is probably what he is doing. The southeast did not vote for Buhari. They gave him 5 per cent. So he is going to reward the other people because he wants them to vote for him again. If he does it the other way round, he might even lose the other voters. Now, I’m not saying it is right. I’m only trying to understand his mindset here and at the same time finding out that Jonathan who played differently did not come back and I don’t think that this president wants to be a one-time president. So it’s unfair to a certain extent but we have to live with it. And there is nothing to say that he might not change along the line. He might decide that there are certain people that he can work with. But at the moment, you have to keep your closest people close by so that you don’t have those situations that Jonathan had where they were almost fighting within Aso Rock, where there was a lot of criticisms, where there was confusion, and where we are told there was a lot of corruption. But if you have your close people that you can monitor, that you have worked with for years that you believe in and perhaps it might be a way to root out and reduce corruption. So those of us in the southeast should learn to share our allegiances and alliances some times. We took a gamble and we lost. We put our eggs in one basket and now we are reeling from defeat. Had some of us gone the other way, maybe some people would have been appointed now. But so far, he has not done anything that is unconstitutional.

Do you see President Buhari winning the war on corruption? Even if they brought Obama or Prime Minister Cameron or anybody to fight Nigeria’s corruption, they would not win it. You can only reduce corruption, you can’t kill it; you have to gradually reduce it over time and you also have to change the mindset of the people because it’s a value thing. The mindset of our people accepts corruption at every level. If you don’t change that mindset, you will not be able to get rid of corruption. So he has a big job to try and reduce corruption. He is probably going to try but to say that he will eradicate corruption that is going to be impossible. He is going to fight to reduce it and fight to change the mindset of the people to understand that it is the corruption that is holding us back, that it is the corruption that is stopping us from moving forward and then gradually reduce it. But that shouldn’t be his focus, that should be one of his jobs. His major job must be to grow the economy, his major job must be to provide good education, his major job must be to provide good infrastructure to bring in the right kind of foreign investment so that we can start creating jobs for our people.

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