Deputy National Chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Segun Oni, during the week, spoke with newsmen on sundry issues affecting the polity, especially the ruling political party. KOLAWOLE DANIEL brings excerpts:
How can you explain the support of Nigerians for the anti-corruption drive of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government?
I believed that Nigerians know that we are very serious, we are very sincere about fighting corruption and I think people, from the reaction of some people, people are happy that we are taking the fight to the doorstep of corruption. We, therefore, expect attitude to be changing more; we expect Nigerians to become more and more demanding because the moment they know that their voices also can count, they would continue to raise their voices against corruption and Nigeria would be better for it. I am very sure that Nigeria has started on a road that nobody can block. Corruption would receive the fight of this government and of this party wholesale and if anybody is still in the past thinking that ‘after a while, they would stop’, those people were thinking in the past. Nobody loves corruption; even the people who indulged in it cannot come out to defend it. It is unfortunate that we allow Nigeria to be run by the kind of people who have just left, who didn’t understand or believe that stealing is corruption; people whose mind is so warped that even when they see stealing, when they see corruption, they would look the other way. But we must stand up to it. Corruption is not just at the door step of political appointees or politicians; we have to ensure that everybody, every institution is taken before the scrutiny of everybody-civil servants, the judiciary, of course, the executive and the legislature. As long as you are handling public funds, one way or the other, you must come under scrutiny and I am sure this war would not allow any exemption.
But some Nigerians still believe that your party is not playing the game by the rule; in the sense that there is gross disregard for rule of law in the course of this fight against corruption. What is your reaction to this?
If the rule of law is left to be what it is and nothing is happening, if you leave this war in the hand of people who would not be able to prosecute it, it means we give up and God forbid that we should fail. People who are talking about the rule of law and so on, how much have we achieved by the rule of law? Are they saying there is no corruption? If there is corruption, what has been achieved in stopping it? Or we should now say we cannot stop it then we should institutionalise it. At one stage, there must be a stop. In Ghana (Jerry) Rawlings applied a measure. God forbid that in Nigeria here. Things cannot continue the way it is. Everybody knows corrupt people, but everybody is keeping their voices low. Don’t lawyers know corrupt judges? Don’t judges also know corrupt judges? If the system within the judiciary is unable to deal with this, so nobody should talk? People would get so frustrated that the people out there would come out in arms against the whole system and God forbid.
So, what we are trying to do now is to prevent the alternative, which is the collapse of the whole system, with the people taking laws into their hands. If the National Judicial Council (NJC) has been able to deal with the issue of corruption decisively in such a way that people are very confident that it would be done, I am sure this would probably not be necessary. But not much has been done; people are frustrated. The whole system is complaining; people are complaining. I want to see how Nigerian judges or lawyers or practitioners of anything could raise their hands and say there is no corruption. Nobody has defended the system so far. Even the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has not defended the system to say there is no corruption. What people are talking about is how we are going about it.
Yes, let them come up with alternative ways of achieving that. Once they tell us, ‘Mr President, you don’t have to do what you are doing. We assure you we will fish out all corrupt people out of this system within six months and they would be out; give us this time’, then there would be no need for any extra measures. But if we don’t have such an assurance from anywhere, we have to continue to do what we believe is a right way to go about it. This is an extra-ordinary circumstance and people should see it as such.
But the CJN earlier in the week complained that the invasion of judges’ homes is an assault on the judiciary, even as some Nigerians also said the executive has labeled both the legislature and judiciary as corrupt institutions, thereby weakening these arms and frustrating the principle of separation of powers…
You see, the people who had been taken in so far were from the corridors of the executive, whether they are in this government or previous government. Don’t forget, the executive are always the first people namely the politicians. Since we have been prosecuting people for corruption, how many judges have been brought before EFCC over the years? Is it an indication that the judiciary has been clean? How many legislators were brought before EFCC? It has always been the executive. Yes, you can say it is the executive in the previous administration, but they were still part of the executive. Even when you talk of civil servants, how many civil servants have ever been brought before EFCC? So, this is not a war directed in any particular direction. If you know corrupt people, even in this government; if you have evidence, come up and let us see whether government would keep quite. If you see an act of corruption been perpetrated by people even in this government now, say it and it would be attended to. The truth is, Nigeria needs to be salvaged from the grip of corruption. How do we go about it? This is one model; let any group or any arm of government come up with a model that would be very effective and would be devoid of what they consider as abnormalities and all Nigerians would fold our hands and watch them do it.
What is your reaction to the complaints that the Federal Government has not seen reason to commence investigation on the damning allegations leveled by two judges against the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi?
I am not in the position to defend Amaechi, but I feel very very sad. I am very sad that a justice of the Supreme Court comes up much later to say somebody attempted to bribe him. If I am a justice of the Supreme Court, that person would not spend another week before he is arrested. It is a crime if you see somebody committing crime and you keep quiet and now you are talking about it. Do you want people to take you seriously? It is like somebody saying I saw somebody committed rape last year and I didn’t do anything about it. That, I don’t think, sound wise to me; it doesn’t sound right. I am not exonerating anybody and there can be investigation. What one can make of these things is the fact that a justice of the Supreme Court has said it does not make it right. We should be able to ask him, why didn’t you do anything?
A chieftain of your party recently said, considering the way things are going within the party, there may not be APC in 2019. What is your position on this statement?
I am sorry, whoever said that, I don’t see it as a reasonable thing to say. As it is, this is the strongest base that any political system has in Nigeria today. So, it is the wishful thinking of anybody that APC would not last till 2019. I would say that is wishful thinking and it is not one of the most reasonable things to say. We can have problems, but we will face our problems as it comes. We are not saying that there won’t be turbulent times but if there are turbulent times, we go through it; turbulent times are normal. Even the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in its own period, had turbulent times and it went through it. But to go to the extreme and to now be thinking that APC may not exist till 2019, we are already in 2016, you shouldn’t take such a person serious.
You are from the South-West and you are the Deputy National Chairman (South), and APC is going into the Ondo State governorship election divided, with some bigwigs from the region apparently unhappy and aggrieved. What confidence do you have that the party would overcome these challenges?
Let me tell you, the situation in Ondo State, fortunately or unfortunately, is not limited to any side. In APC, we have our own trouble. The other side (PDP), because there is only one side before, has even more trouble than us. We are talking about a candidate that needs to reach out and do reconciliation (in APC), but they (PDP) are talking of no candidate right now. So, the people of Ondo State are not stupid; they are watching everything. So if there is any safe way that we have, it is because the other side is more enmeshed in trouble than we are. So, we will sort ourselves out, while they may or may not sort themselves out. But I think the situation for us in Ondo State is still very bright.
There are also insinuations of political realignment going on in the country and the names of Senator Bola Tinubu and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar feature very prominently that a new party may emerged from your party and other political blocs. Are you aware of this development?
Well, I am not aware. Let me say this: I have not attended any meeting for any realignment and so, I am not aware. But let me say that right from day one, the losers in this scheme had always been talking of alignment. Don’t forget right from when we started, they didn’t even wait for us to spend one year before they started talking of alignment. That is always the mentality of losers. The losers would always look for a new thing; the winners would always try to promote continuity psychologically. And because, unfortunately, our democracy is always going back to the starting block all the time, it has made Nigerians to think that, ‘yes, we should always go to the starting block again and start another set of political parties, another set of thinking’, but it won’t happen all the time. Where, if we have crisis, we are going to resolve them; we will try as much as possible. If there is political alignment going on, I am not aware of it. But our responsibility is to run APC very well so that whatever problems we have, we can resolve. That is what we are here to do and if there is anybody who has been attending meetings as it is term meeting for realignment, good luck to them. But I believe in doing what I am here to do to the best of my ability, as much as possible. When it is time for me to leave this seat, I will leave with honour.