Buhari’s Foreign Trips Too Frequent – Ohuabunwa | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari’s Foreign Trips Too Frequent – Ohuabunwa

sam ohuabunwa
Posted: Apr 7, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Maxi Sam Ohuabunwa, a seasoned technocrat, is a former president of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). In this interview with Temidayo Akinsuyi,he speaks on crucial issues as it affects the nation and proffers solutions . Excerpts:

It’s almost a year that Nigerians voted in a government that promised change. Do you think the change is already been felt in the country?

We have not started seeing that change in all respects, though we’ve seen some. I can say that we have seen change in the anti-corruption area. For a long time, it is as if the anti-corruption fight is happening without the knowledge of Nigerians, but today, we are seeing it. People are being probed, arrested and prosecuted. That is a major change and we must acknowledge it. But to be sincere, that doesn’t put food on the table of the average man. People voted for change because they wanted to see improved changes in their lives. The unemployed wanted to get jobs. Those with jobs now want better jobs and live a better life. But presently, that has not been realised. Why these things have not been realised is not very clear to me. I know there is a sharp fall in price of crude oil but we are not the only country experiencing that. That of course, will affect government expenditure, but it shouldn’t cause us to be in this situation we now find ourselves.

Looking at the power outage in the country, do you believe that the Ministry of Power should be given special preference and not merged with two other ministries as some Nigerians have been advocating?

If I were the president, I will not give one person three portfolios. But maybe the president has information which I do not have. He alone can justify why he did that. I am for reduction in the number of ministries. In fact, I have written a book on that but there are certain ministries that shouldn’t have been reduced. Ministries like Power, Works and Housing are very critical. The president has his reason for giving him the portfolio but if I am the president, I wouldn’t do so.

There has been clamour in some quarters for the sack of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Finance Minister over the state of the Nigerian economy. What is your perspective on this?

I didn’t hire any of them and even Nigerians clamouring for their change didn’t hire them. The president hired them and he has a reason for that. On my part, I have recommended that they should be given performance contracts. The federal government should have performance contract with the ministers and all the heads of the MDAs. This is important so that their performance can be evaluated quarterly. If they are lagging behind, they can be removed and replaced with a competent individual. So, I do not know whether there is any such thing to recommend any of these people to be sacked or not. The person who hires them will determine that but I am looking at the government as a whole because it is all part of a system. If the system is not working, some things are wrong. If things are wrong, we hold Mr. President responsible because we elected him and not any of these ministers. So, I think it is reasonable enough for the president to know when any of his appointees is not performing and then replace him so that he doesn’t bring down the overall performance of the country. But right now, for inexplicable reasons, Nigerians are not satisfied and this is non-partisan. I believe that government must be sensitive to that. My suggestion has always been that this government is taking too much on itself. It must enlarge its coast to bring in more private sector participation. Some of these burdens should be handed to the private sector. If the federal government want Nigeria to be flooded with petroleum next week, it is possible within one week. All it requires is just give the private sector the incentives. If they need forex to do that, provide it for them. If you restrict it to the NNPC alone, there is no way we will not continue to witness fuel scarcity. So, the decision is in the hands of government.

What is your view on the foreign trips of the president which some Nigerians have described as incessant?

I also believe that the president is travelling too frequently. I believe so. But again, it might be in line with his vision. I have held offices at top level. Sometimes, until you know what the man sees, judging him may just be seeing one side of an elephant. From my perspective, the trips are too frequent, especially when considering the fact that whenever he travels, he goes with his aides and ministers. I asked one minister recently ‘When are you going to do the job you are assigned to do because you are always on the air?’ I believe the president knows what he is doing. I guess that after a while, he will settle down.

What is your take on the resurgence of Biafra especially after President Buhari’s election? Do you think the federal government is handling the situation in the proper manner?

The truth is that IPOB and Biafra agitation has been in existence long before President Buhari was elected. It is just that some of the actions that President Buhari took triggered it. He made all the appointments and didn’t include anybody from the South East. And then, when these guys show up, rather than engage them in dialogue, the federal government resorted to use of force. All the noise that was being made was just to demand for the release of Nnamdi Kanu. That was the reason for the demonstrators by the youths. They are not necessarily asking for Biafra. For me, the Biafra situation is a clear sign that some people are not happy to belong to this federation. If I am the man in charge of the federal republic of Nigeria, and I noticed that you are unhappy, I am going to call you and ask questions on why you are unhappy. That is what I think we need to do as a country. We should take actions that will unite the country and not to cause further division.