Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu is the National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC). In this interview, he speaks on some political issues, including President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of governance since May 29. Excerpts…
As a prelude to the discourse on current political directions in the country, it appears necessary to x-ray ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo. Indeed, some critics have described his recent effusions as hypocritical? Do you agree with this?
Obasanjo has a complex and wild syndrome of a sort that is associated with age and his now ancient military background. Never in the history of the world have I read of a leader and former president talk down and try to bully a serving President, and continues to do so even after the man has quit office. In terms of performance, I believe that Jonathan achieved more than Obasanjo. I mean metered performance, not propaganda. And in the area of corruption Jonathan and all members of his team were more prudent, transparent and humble. Whatever our democracy, polity, and various processes are suffering today is the handiwork of General Obasanjo.
What would you say about President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade?
If Buhari and APC are able to carry out their anti-corruption crusade and probes, I am sure Nigerians will not even be surprised to find out that most of the seriously compromised and corrupt Nigerians are the ones making the greatest noise now. At least the Halliburton US documented papers is available, I am sure President Buhari has it by now. The fact that Jonathan focused on developing systems to check and mitigate corrupt practices rather than politics of tyranny out of the phenomenon does not make him and his government anything close to the present propaganda. The tax systems were put in place, monetary policies that limit cash transactions were put in place. Through the new federal salaries and other payment systems a lot of the loopholes were sealed. Now Nigerians have identity within the financial and banking systems to assure an efficiency and transparency and records. By the time all of the processes put in place by the financial and economic team are in place it will be difficult to fritter money as before. Now in the long run Nigeria will live to say which one is better. Demonizing all Nigerians both at home and abroad as corrupt, or putting a seal to check and stamp out corruption and fraud. By the time the Buhari government will conclude broadcasting to the world how corrupt all of us are I wonder what nations and business people will want to do business with such a people or invest in such a country.
Do you have issues with Buhari’s approach?
Serious governments don’t operate on drama and propagandizing. It is unfortunate that the APC as a party and the President’s men cannot draw the line between politics and governance. The threat to arrest and probe Jonathan I regard as mere propaganda. Except for Gowon, all former military heads of state or Presidents in Nigeria are known to be multi-Billionaires in Naira and dollars. Do you make billions from salaries?
When you said, ‘except for Gowon, all former military heads of state or presidents in Nigeria are known to be multi-billionaires in Naira and dollars’, does this include Buhari?
Yes, including General Buhari. When Governor El-Rufai made a declaration of his assets and it is in billions that should tell you why General Buhari who had promised to make a public declaration must have stopped. I am sure that by the time his advisers assessed what he was worth, they discovered that it was going to cause a major scandal. Let them declare; all this witch hunt will stop. It is crude and shows lack of direction the way APC still attacks people who served under Jonathan. Jonathan handed over to them peacefully and they want to demonize him. The people do not have shame, they lost election three time and never had the decency to accept the outcome even when the international community attested to the fact that all elections conducted under President Jonathan were the best in this country. Because of their attitude to their election losses, lives were lost, properties destroyed and the nation was embroiled in the harshest form of insecurity, and terror. The courts and all institutions in this country, including INEC were abused and called all kinds derogatory names. Now that the same system has declared Buhari winner and Jonathan accepted, his party and himself do not have the grace to apologize to the people and appreciate the generosity of spirit shown by Jonathan.
What pattern of corruption can you see between past civilian and military leaders?
I see clearly the plot to demonize the non-military Presidents in Nigeria. In 1983 General Buhari staged a military coup and chastised President Shagari and his government. The airwaves were filled with concocted tales of monumental corruption. Shagari corrupt? Now put Shagari side by side with all the military heads that governed the country after him. Which of them is close to Shagari in piety, and financial fidelity? None; I repeat, including General Buhari. The four non-military men from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to Shehu Aliyu Shagari, to Ernest Shonekan, and now Dr Goodluck Jonathan, were made to look incapable and incompetent to run the Nigeria federation. This circus of evil will not be allowed. Unfortunately this elite deception seems to be gaining credence amongst the masses. But nobody will be allowed to single out Jonathan this time. I will lead a vanguard to resist it. Abubakar was corrupt and inept so the first set of coup plotters told the world, Shagari the same, Shonekan and now Jonathan too, but all the military persons that led this country were never cajoled after they left office by people who took over except in the case of Abacha, simply because he died in office.
How would you rate Nigerian governments in recent times?
Governments in Nigeria have confiscated the natural resources found in the Niger Delta and they have feasted on this for half a century and they are conspiring to intimidate the people. If anyone says that their son, Jonathan, failed as president, I dare to ask, against what indicator? Any real indicator shows Jonathan’s government as the best so far in the history of Nigeria in all ramifications; they did better in education, agriculture, infrastructural development, and financial planning, and did more constructive work on curbing corruption. Our airports witnessed unprecedented rehabilitation, while new ones were constructed. The states were allowed to try to exist without encumbrance. That is democracy and good dose of federalism. The dismantling the humongous Power Holdings structures took nerves, and it will eventually become the genesis of real electric power accomplishment for Nigeria if the incumbent allows the process to run.
Where does the political elite come in at this point?
In this country, you hear all sorts, and the so-called knowledgeable elites feed the people with nonsense. Recently, some people were talking of the father figure needed in the polity. I cannot fathom what the publisher of Ovation, Momodu, meant by that we need a father figure to guide and guard our politics. He said that is why he sided with General Buhari. When elites in their fifties and sixties still need father figures that is melancholy, as men and women under this bracket have become, fathers many time over, and even grandfathers and grandmothers, and even great grandmothers – look all over the world and tell me where you hear such sentiments by the educated elites. When will Dele Momodu become a father figure, if he is not at the present? We despise ourselves. Most of our elites who sought appointment with Jonathan, and could not get immediately went on the offensive against him. I did seek appointment, I did not get. But that does not make me feel that Jonathan was a write-off. Some people looked for contract, or patronage of some different kinds, when they did not get, Jonathan became clueless. I sort no contract, or oil well, and did not also get any patronage, but Jonathan remains the most educated President that Nigeria ever had. This is true until this day.
Some Nigerians have called Buhari ‘baba-go-slow’, would you consider this a fair assessment so soon?
I will always speak my mind. Buhari is slow and it is not a joking matter. He prepared for this Presidency since 2003, he contested every presidential election since that time. He finally won the election in 2015, May 28th. He faces no court or tribunal cases, no ‘I no go gree’ tug of war. Jonathan gave him a peaceful ascension to the office he angled for over 12years, and 4months after his victory he could not present his team or agenda and vision for Nigeria. And you expect me Chief Nwosu to remain quiet. We are deceiving ourselves if we fail to get Mr President to pick speed. Before Mr President embarked on his US trip, I advised that it was hasty. No minister of Foreign Affairs, Economic team, defence and intelligence portfolio and you go to America to took, Boko Haram, economy, and other shunting with shopping lists. What has happened; Carson hosted them to Jamboree, and feasted them with baloneys that they like to hear. If you have any contact with the state department and the white house find out how low Nigeria is now regarded. They do not see any future soon. I got many “Ralphs what is happening to your country” calls. The system, the economy, the nation is bleeding in many ways for his lethargy. Look at the disparity in exchange rate; the effect is ominous. We may go back to double exchange rate regime and import license racketeering I must warn. However, I think the national assembly seems to be seizing the initiative to drive the system until the executive gets their acts together or wake up from their deep slumber.
Do you also subscribe to the claim by some commentators that the Buhari administration is biased against states that did not vote for him?
The other very disturbing scenario of the Buhari and APC government is this thing about leveraging only the states that voted for them. I dare to ask Mr. President, when he plotted the success coup in the army, was it only his co-conspirators that benefited. So the coup was not meant to better the entire nation. No wonder what happened afterwards. I am not a parochial person but I do not understand why after about 24 appointments, President Buhari has not considered anyone from the South East as worthy of appointment. That is a shame. Never in the history of Nigeria has such a thing happened. It’s a shame. When Obasanjo won in 1999 with Atiku as his Vice, he first appointed a political adviser in the person of Prof ABC Nwosu. We are not related; that was strategic. When leaders show insensitivity to some national realities the result is always predictable.The Igbo nation will not die even if Buhari finishes 4years or 8years without appointing anyone of them to any position. He can keep his appointments but let us have fairness, equity, and level playing ground. Ndigbo or any people in Nigeria will blossom in a free, fair and equitable environment. Or is that too much to ask, too? We shall see who blinks first in this ding-dong race. It is jungle democracy when the Presidency says that they dispense governance dividends according to votes cast, and that appointment will be denied any group, or uses appointments to humiliate any region. Buhari presidency will come and go. Any government that aims to dehumanize, or is out for vendetta, and arrogates messianic power to itself will hit the rock. You can bet on that and I do not want General Buhari to go that way. If he continues like this I will defeat him even in Daura in 2019.