PDP’s northern presidential ticket threatens Nigeria’s unity —APC

•Says: ‘Opposition parties’ attack on Buhari will make them lose in 2023’

The National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Felix Morka, speaks with TAIWO AMODU on the state of affairs in the ruling party, the opposition and the 2023 general election.

 

Senator Bola Tinubu has since emerged as the APC presidential candidate. Party faithful are worried that a cold war subsists among the power blocs despite the fact that presidential primary has been lost and won. What is the party doing to ensure that all bury the hatchet?

The party conducted its presidential primary with distinction. Against all of the predictions of chaos and crisis during our presidential primary, we came out of that event stronger and more focused on the upcoming election. At the end of it all, Senator Bola Tinubu emerged the presidential candidate of the APC. APC, as you know, is the largest political party not only in Nigeria but on the entire African continent with over 40 million members. At the primary, we had 23 aspirants who contested for that position. This party managed that entire event without rancour, without any incident and it turned out to be the freest and the fairest of presidential primaries ever conducted in the history of this country.

So, I am very proud of that event and the outcome. And coming out of that, as I said, we had 23 competitors for that position. Naturally, in any kind of competition, whether political or sports or any other kind of competition, somebody or some people must win and others must lose. Everyone cannot win. But in a political contest, and because we are all members of one political party, eminent men and women of the party, yes it is expected that individuals may be disappointed because they were not able to achieve their personal aspirations. But even if they might not have succeeded, they succeed as members of the party. They succeeded because the party succeeded. So, I think that is really the key issue to focus on. In another case, to the dismay of the naysayers who had predicted all sorts of awkward outcomes for us, we didn’t have the meltdown that they expected. Yes, some people may be dissatisfied, they have reason to be dissatisfied because they didn’t succeed but overall, as a political competition, we came out of it quite good and that is why we have been able to forge ahead.

As you also know, the candidate has made it his business, as expected, to reach out to those who competed with him. He is trying to bring them back and assuage those who may have been disappointed in one way or another. He is trying to encourage them to stay focused on the prize which is 2023 to enable him and to help the party compete vigorously for victory in that election. So, everything that can be done is being done by the candidate and also by the party itself to reach out to those individuals who competed to leave behind everything about the primary and focus on the upcoming election.

 

What is the party doing on its own to reconcile the presidential candidate with some of the former aspirants? There was supposed to be a meeting at Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja but it did not hold. Why?

The party is doing everything it is supposed to do, which is to reach out to individuals on a personal level and also as an aggregate. There have been a lot of meetings held and also many of those initiatives quite frankly are not held in the full glare of the public or the media. A lot of these things are quiet diplomacy. That is what it takes to reach people personally and to encourage them to leave some of these concerns behind. And I think substantially, our party has been very successful.

The meeting you referred to was not called by the party. It was not a meeting called by the candidate. It was not a meeting called by the president. It was at the instance of an individual who was doing also what everyone is doing — to do their best on their personal level to bring people together. I think that meeting is being overstated; it wasn’t a meeting convened by the party or any convening authority of the party or the candidate.

I don’t know who was even invited. Some of the people that the media had suggested didn’t turn up. I don’t have any idea so I cannot tell you who was invited or by what criteria those invited were selected for the invitation. So, it was a personal initiative. I am sure it was borne out of goodwill to try to help and that is what I can say.

 

It was a stakeholders meeting, the agenda was reconciliation. When it didn’t hold what did you take out of it?

Look, there is nothing to take out of it. Like I said, it wasn’t a meeting convened by a convening authority of the party or the campaign, so there is no meaning to read into it. I can invite you to a tea or to have a dinner  and you don’t show up. There is nothing to discuss; it was just a private invitation as I understand. And I think we don’t have to overstate or speculate as to the motive or intention behind it.

 

Aside from the contenders for the ticket which Senator Tinubu won, there are also people who are not taking kindly to the same-faith ticket of the party, the likes of Babachir Lawal; former speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and the rest of them. Has the party initiated moves to talk to this bloc as well?

Bloc? What bloc?

 


The Northern Christians in the APC…

You just mentioned certain individuals who have publicly expressed their concerns and their dissatisfaction with the ticket that was chosen by our candidate. They are individuals and as individuals, they are constitutionally  entitled to their opinions. Their opinions can not be equated with the opinions of those they came to represent because there is no publicly verifiable system of mandate to any of the individuals you mentioned to speak for and on behalf of those they claim to represent. So, quite frankly, they are individuals, they expressed their views, and their views were heard loud and clear. But the party and the candidate have made that decision and I think, ultimately, we shouldn’t be focused on religious affiliations of the candidates, quite frankly.

That is not the issue here. Between the APC and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, I think the media also can help to put the searchlight on the more critical issue of the breach by the PDP of the principle of rotation between the north and south of this country, a principle which is enunciated in their constitution. They are the only political party that thought it necessary to entrench the idea that after a northern president, there shall be a southern president in rotation. Now, they flagrantly undermined that principle of their own constitution. That should be the concern to not just people in the PDP but to all Nigerians because, one, what is this idea? Where did it come from? They were the originators. Nobody disputes that, they began to implement that principle. So, when they decided to discard it and jettison it, then we should interrogate that move and the implication it has for our national unity and national cohesion. So, people can be Christians today, tomorrow they have the freedom to be Muslims and vice versa. So, the personal faith of an individual should not be of concern, should not take centre stage as I think some people who will just promote politics of sentiments have tended to do. Now, I am a Christian, I have no problem whatsoever with the religion of my Muslim brothers. Now, every day, we all live our lives and in very critical spheres which affect our lives intimately and personally. We put our lives in the hands of Muslims as Christians every day, whether as doctors, as drivers, pilots. We do that every day. We don’t investigate to pick. In fact, a pilot is licensed to fly a plane and I am boarding that plane. I don’t go about asking whether that pilot is a Muslim or a Christian but he is flying a machine that depends entirely on dexterity, competence, not on where he says his prayers. So, I think we cannot sacrifice competence and vitality at the altar of religious myopia. We must not do that. No democracy can survive on that model. I think we are all religious people and we should be religious people but I think that when it comes to matters of state, we can’t treat matters of state as though this was an appendage to just simply a religious sphere. State and religion are two separate systems of engagement and of belief. We can’t necessarily use one to moderate. Can you imagine what will happen to our Muslim brothers and our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria if we are to, in fact, begin to detect how people worship in the religious houses? So, we shouldn’t simply take religion to moderate matters of state and governance.

 

According to INEC guidelines, from September 28, parties are at liberty to start their campaigns. As the ruling party, what will you tell the opposition parties that insist that President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance has made Tinubu a hard sell?

Look, listen, any assessment of the Buhari administration by any party in the opposition that is seeking to take power, if all they offer to Nigeria is their almost self-serving, ridiculous analysis of the performance of Buhari, if it is what they bring to campaign, they have lost the election already. Because, I trust Nigerians to be discerning enough to know that when I ask you your name, don’t tell me I am not this person, I am not APC. That’s not an answer, answer your name, state your issues; what exactly are you putting on the table for Nigerians?

What system of ideas are you bringing to our people? How are they superior to the ideas of the ruling All Progressives Congress? So, it is just not enough to bash the government. In any event, the PDP and other political parties have no moral right to attempt to denigrate the achievements of this administration because in 16 years, they didn’t perform up to a third of the accomplishments of this government. Whatever negatives they like to harp on are the liabilities that were incurred fully by the PDP for over 16 years. I know we like to wish away and I don’t actually want to look backwards, I am looking forward. I am only responding to your question and looking at what the PDP and other parties might say but if you want to be objective and look at this government; you want to talk facts? The facts speak for themselves because the PDP has nothing. What did they do? What they did was to unleash corruption as state policy. What they did was profligacy in the management of our resources. What they did was to bring us on the brink of a massive recession which was quickly arrested by this government. One of the key national projects that they promised to execute they didn’t – the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. They awarded that contract three times or so with huge sums of money without any results. In the spate of seven years, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is almost completely built and built to international specification. Is it the Niger Bridge that they promised to build? Particularly, Jonathan, if I can recall correctly,  did suggest, that was in Asaba, that he would go into exile if that bridge was not built under his tenure. He didn’t build it. He didn’t even start it. So, the point I am making is that if you want to look at all of the issues of concrete projects, this government has exceeded all expectations in comparison with the the previous government and especially measured against available resources.

Today, many people brag about the critical innovations and improvement in our electoral system. You know how that came about. It is this government that meticulously worked with the National Assembly to lay down some fundamental rules that now governs the process. My point here is that our friends in the media should also help build this conscience of our democracy. It is not enough for the media to report and analyse and write opinions.

 

Some Nigerians have accused this administration of trust deficit on the grounds, for example, that it promised that Nigeria’s refineries would work at installed capacities so that the country would not have to import fuel anymore. Why have the country’s four refineries remained comatose?

At the point of conceptualisation of the mission, vision and objective of every political party, everything that they said, globally are statements of aspiration. They are aspiration statements. It’s not quite like your annual budget that you take your time to collect data, measure all the indicators to indicate performance when you come back and say I am on this level. Keep in mind that at the time of unveiling some of those manifestoes that you discussed, APC was not in government and it was seriously identified as a major point of reform and solution to our problems. Now, the point I am making is that at that stage, at the evolution of this government, the government did not have access and it did not have the command and control of all of the systems that it needed to be able to make specific analyses and appraise the state of decay of our refineries, even in the power sector, for example. It was when this government was inaugurated that they had access to information and even the physical infrastructure we were discussing.

I recall when (Babatunde) Fashola took his ministerial position and began his tour. I remember some of the comments he made; that in many of the major stations, when they launched the efforts to improve those systems, some of the bolts couldn’t turn because they were completely rusted. How was the Minister, Fashola, to know while he was outside, before he became a minister and before he came in contact with the actual machinery, that the level of decay was at that stage. So, you see, my problem is that you see political manifestoes are aspirations. Every manifesto of any government in this world are aspirations. Aspirations are things you like to do, you wish to do. Now, the difference between aspirations and actual reality often is one is an expression of hope and the other is the reality of the condition on the ground.

I am not by that saying the government has no responsibility, and as a matter of fact, this government has conducted the business of trying to restore our refining capacity to the point that the Port Harcourt refinery is now rescheduled to begin working in December. We are dealing with the reality of an economic condition that is generational. This government did not create some of the circumstances that you are asking it to solve in this number of years. Of course, it will be wonderful, I am sure that the government itself would have loved to completely solve all of these major problems in our country but unfortunately, the circumstances, those within its control and those outside its control, continue to militate against the full achievements of those objectives you are asking about.

And the same goes to the power sector. If you look at the power sector, the PDP, in its 16 years, expended billions, billions and billions of dollars when the country’s earning capacity was at its best. They expended all those billions in the so-called power sector reforms with no value added at all. If the amount of money that was at the disposal of the PDP in that period was available to the Buhari administration, I bet you our power sector would be a different place all together. I said this in relation to your question. Think about it. At some point under (Goodluck) Jonathan, the government of Jonathan was raking in direct contribution by the NNPC over $3.6 billion as contribution to the national treasury every month because oil was selling at its peak value for most of that era but this administration lost one year on the global lockdown due to COVID-19. Nobody gives any kind of consideration about that. The entire globe was shut, oil was selling for nothing; at a point it came down to barely $10.  This government has had its revenue sources decimated by circumstances that are beyond its control. The government did not invent COVID-19; we were just a victim like every other country in the world. On top of that, oil prices, because of that, completely permeated to levels unprecedented. Imagine you making your annual budget based on a certain benchmark and at the end of period you barely achieve 20 percent of the value of which your budget was calculated. How are you supposed to perform all of these variables and the fact that Nigeria is a mono-product economy that we are simply locked in on the sale of crude oil that is also not necessary the problem of this administration and no country in the world has diversified its economy to a degree of up to 60-40 percent ratio in seven years, unless something miraculous happens and drop down and you hit the peak?

So, when we talk about challenges, let us pay attention to the economic factors that are not necessarily the fault of this government and I don’t say this to excuse the government anyway. I say it responsibly just for the purpose of analysis but you cannot discard it – we had COVID-19. This government has earned the worst revenue in the history of this country since independence. So, when you put all of that together, what do you get? Then, you must assess performance of this government on all of the variables. You cannot take Nigeria and be analysing it in relation to China and Indonesia the way Peter Obi likes to do. That’s not the way it is done. We are a country and right now in almost one year, the NNPC has not contributed a penny to the Federal Allocation Account because we are paying subsidy. When had it ever happened since independence that the NNPC failed to remit money to the treasury? It is unprecedented. We are not talking about $10, we talking of serious contribution and nobody is discussing that. Where is the government supposed to get money, the CBN is not a money-making entity? The CBN is a book-keeper. You can’t take out of the CBN what you didn’t put there. So, if all of the revenue-generating agencies are not there, you cannot get it. How do you spend all and support the value of Naira? I think all of us, people who have governed this country from the time of independence to today, should be grossly ashamed of themselves. Because every government, every era, people have the opportunity to reform the economy of this country to put it to a place where it can earn revenue. But this government has done probably more than the previous governments put together in terms of diversifying the economy. So, we cannot make this analysis in a very casual way. We should look at the hard facts and history. It is not enough to look at the government and put all the blame on it.

Look at agriculture. When this government announced they were trying to impose a ban on the importation of rice so that we could give our farmers incentives to grow rice and ensure food security, many of our people, certainly on the opposition side, were spewing hot lava in protest against the government. You cannot support agriculture on a sustainable basis without imposing a ban on dumping of rice in our economy, using the little exchange that we have supporting the importation of a product we can grow at home and make farmers wealthy, get them to create wealth for themselves and their families. You can’t achieve that but this government was adamant that we were going to ban (rice importation) and they did it. When you and I go to eat rice in our restaurants, even in our homes, nobody is asking whether this is local or  foreign rice. Now, look at what subsidy is doing to us. I don’t know what the proposal is for next year, probably in the neighborhood of N7-8 trillion. What is Nigeria’s budget? N17 trillion, you are spending about a half of the national budget to support one product.

 

But is it not an indictment on the government that it could not rehabilitate four refineries?

Look, my point is that it doesn’t take two months or two weeks to fix refineries. It can take seven years because it can depend on the state of the refineries. Look, when was the last time those refineries operated? Given the way they operate, you are not supposed to shutdown refineries even for one year. Even for turnaround maintenance, you have to shut down refineries for a period, there are engineering specifications for how long. But in our own case, we shutdown the refineries for years, even up to decades. I can’t remember how long, if not two decades.

 

But must it take six, seven years to fix refineries?

The APC was not in government at that time but those who were in charge, who managed all the revenue, as I said earlier, who failed grossly to make sure the refineries were working are the ones who are now singing to the high tune how the APC, in the last seven years, has not done that. Help me tell them in the PDP, they should be silent about some of these national issues because they are responsible for what is happening in this country.

I am not attempting to absolve the government. This government needs to do so much more and that is why some of us are committed to the progress of this party, to bring Bola Tinubu to become the president of this country next year because as somebody who listens, he is one of the best listeners I know in the political space, who is attentive to details and who will stop at nothing to hear the very best even if that person is a fierce opponent. If Asiwaju believes that that individual has the capacity to affect change in that sector, Asiwaju will completely look beyond those tripods to bring them to actually do that job. He is an excellent manager, he has that broad perspective of how things ought to go and how to use available resources to achieve your goals and he is a tested and trusted individual in that sector. So, beyond all the noise that the opposition will want to raise about our candidate, I think that if you really take time, you don’t even need to take time, even at the casual look at all of those who are prospecting for the presidency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is incomparable to any in the scheme of things and especially given where we are now in the country and all sectors, whether national security, economy, education or healthcare, Tinubu has demonstrated competence. Beyond all of the charge, Nigerians need to settle down and hire the best hand to move this country to that next stage.

ALSO READ FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

 


You might also like
Comments

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More