Buhari’s change would take time to materialise – Ibrahim | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari’s change would take time to materialise – Ibrahim

Posted: Apr 30, 2015 at 12:51 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chairman of Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Alhaji Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, in this interview with DAVID ODAMA, warns against expecting too much from president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, and stresses the need for maintenance of the Federal Character principle, among other issues. Excerpts…

Buhari is seen as a messiah by many who also have great expectations concerning his presidency. What do you envisage would be the likely shape of Buhari’s government?

Alhaji Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim

Alhaji Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim

I don’t want to assume too much because I am not a member of the APC and, of course, Buhari’s government will be APC’s government. So I have no idea how that government will be formed. What I worry about though is the level of expectation on Buhari. The expectation is suffocating, just too high. Nigerians expect Buhari to solve all their problems. Of course, that is understandable. They, having been brutalised over a long period and, therefore, since someone who has a track record of patriotism, discipline and fairness, has come on board,  are all over themselves. I will like to hope that before the new government takes over a deliberate and sustain campaign is done to educate Nigerians that the president alone cannot change the country; all of us must play our respective parts. The APC alone cannot change Nigeria. In fact, the victory at the polls is more than APC’s victory; it is a Nigerian victory, because the multitude that voted for Buhari was not members of the APC. They were mostly Nigerian citizens who yearned for change and so we all must play our part to make the change possible. Attitude has to changed, and indeed almost everything has to change, especially in view of the fact that Nigeria is technically broke. The source of funding of public projects, revenue from oil, is dwindling and with all the problems created over the years, the means to solve the problems is also dwindling. So, we have to be realistic to accept that this change would require immense sacrifice from everybody and that it will take time to be achieved. I hope the APC will study what happened in the previous governments to avoid the mistakes that were made.

Do you subscribe to the agitations from some quarters that the principles of federal character be discarded in the selection of the principal officers of the National Assembly?

I have no seat on the table when the decision will be made. However, the principle of federal character is a constitutional principle and it is required whenever there are positions to be shared in the country. So it will be impossible for even the APC to discard the principle. I don’t think that the APC will share offices without due regard to the principles of federal character.

But based on the results of the general elections, it seems the South- South and South-East may be left out in the allocation of elective offices because they don’t have the required elected personnel?

But that is only in the legislature and government is not only all about the legislature. Ministers will be appointed from every state of the federation and that means at the federal executive council every state will be represented. In sharing offices in the legislature, if they are no elected ranking APC members from the two regions in the Senate and the House, how feasible is it to give these regions leadership positions? This is the way the presidential system works. The leadership positions of the legislature are occupied by the party with the dominant majority. But, then, there are other offices like the Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader and the Minority Chief Whip which will be occupied by PDP members in the senate and the House, and if there are no APC members from the zones that you mentioned, then they have lost out.

You said the volume of corruption in the country under Jonathan’s watch has been unprecedented even from ancient times, are you speaking from empirical background or mere assumption?

Let me restate what I said that at no time in the history of mankind: modern or ancient, that the level of corruption taking place in Nigeria today ever happened before. What has been happening in Nigeria from 2011 till now is that an average of $1bn is being stolen in Nigeria every month. I will give you some examples: in 2011 subsidy on fuel and kerosene subsidy on kerosene was N267 bn, but by 2012 subsidy was N2.6trillion, that is 10 times the original amount within one year. Did we increase our consumption of fuel? Did the generators and vehicles multiply 10 times within a year? Has the money reportedly stolen been recovered? Officially, as we speak, we are losing an average of $6.7bn from oil theft every year. This is the figure that the government has acknowledged it is losing from oil theft. Now, if you put together these figures: the N2.6 trn and the $6.7bn that is an average of $1bn a month that is being stolen in Nigeria and nobody has accounted for this money. Oil theft is a daily occurrence, fuel subsidy is an everyday experience and it is only increasing not decreasing. Where in the world have you ever seen this kind of massive corruption? The American president cannot spend $10, 000 off budget. He has no right to spend that amount off budget or he would be impeached. But here we are officially in 2012 budget what we had for fuel subsidy was N267bn but what was spent was over N2.6 trillion. Who appropriated that money? On whose authority was that money spent? Nowhere in the world would this kind of thing happened and nothing takes place. There is no retribution, nothing. This can only happen in Nigeria.

The general elections have come and gone, what’s your impression of the results and the blowing wind of change?

We thank God that the elections have turned out the way they did. Nigerians may not have known it that they have dodged a bullet. If the election had turned out any other way Nigeria would have been a write-off within the next four years and if the last four years are anything to go by, you know, the trajectory is not good. We have lost tens of thousands of human beings to insurgency and clearly the government, which swore to an oath to protect the people, didn’t seem to care. It politicised everything, turned the insurgency into a pro- and anti-government issue.  Meanwhile, people were dying as there was no single family in the areas the insurgency is operating that is not affected by it. Sadly, people who swore to an oath to protect both the weak and strong were lukewarm. This alone was justification for a change. In addition, we are now in a country that has become notorious for runaway corruption; where people are stealing billions of dollars. In my view and from the facts available, this is unprecedented in the history of humankind. The level of corruption, the level of stealing that is going on in Nigeria today, is unprecedented. There is nowhere in ancient or modern history where the amount of money being stolen in Nigeria today has ever been stolen. Nigeria today is said to have more than 10 million out-of-school children and that population is the population of some countries. Yet, we continue as if we are living in a normal society. Where you have more than 10 million children school out of school, how are you going to stop disorder when they attend adulthood? In essence, we, in the last four years, have been victims of a government that absolutely has no care in the world about what happened to Nigeria and Nigerians. So, the condemnation that you saw in the last elections is the momentum that came out of the frustration by Nigerians due to lack of capacity and sensitivity and care of their government to do the right thing. As you must have noted from the pattern of the votes that our problem is neither religion nor ethnicity because although Buhari is a Muslim he could not have won without Christian votes and that our problem is also not sectional because though Buhari is a Northerner he could not have won without Southern votes. So, Nigerians have expressed themselves in this manner in other to liberate themselves from their present condition. They came together and threw away all prejudices in order to liberate themselves.

Your party, the PDM, did put up a good fight, but could not make a significant impact, what’s your reaction?

Our party was expected to perform much better more than it did but what happened was that Nigerians were so scared that the PDP may return that they decided that the only solution was to vote for the APC en mass so that the PDP does not have any chance of returning. They saw in the APC presidential candidate a promise and hope for the country and, therefore, everybody voted en mass for the party. The result was that other parties suffered and we all suffered in the elections other than the presidential election. Personally, if this is the price to pay for the change that has taken place, then I think it is a fair price to pay.

Decamping to the APC has become the order of the day now, what do you think should be done to avoid a gradual drift to one-party state?

I think leaving one party to another has the good and bad sides. The good side is that if there is no internal democracy in one party or that there is a lot of high handedness or the party lacks commitment to any principles and once realisation dawn on them, I think there is no harm for a member to move from one party to another party. On the other hand, the people are moving out of opportunism, reasoning that since another party has won an election they should go there and share in the offices that will be distributed. I think this is a very bad development. I have no pity for the PDP. If the PDP is empty totally today and people move to other parties I will not have any pity for them because this country has been under the control of the PDP for 16 years and the country has been degenerating, nothing has improved. If this is the lesson that the PDP needs to learn in order for it to understand that Nigerians are angry, I think it is right. However, the answer is not for all of us to empty into one party because that party that has won power also needs an opposition for it to perform. I believe that some people must bear the brunt for building a credible and viable opposition in other to keep the APC on its toes. But I don’t believe the PDP is that kind of opposition.

The PDP has been so corrupted that I don’t think it has the capacity to provide viable opposition.