‘Buhari Will Be Different From Other Leaders Because Of His Antecedent’
Chief Kenny Martins, a businessman speaks on the outcome of the just concluded general elections, challenges before the incoming government and other topical issues
What is your view on the just concluded general elections won majorly by All Progressives Congress (APC) the country?
The elections were predictable two years ago so there were no surprises on the outcome. It was clear before the elections that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was not putting its house in order and that the house would soon collapse.
The party in the past sixteen years took Nigerians for granted. They were never stable in terms of party leadership and organization. The party’s chairman seat was rotating like a moving train without direction. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur led leadership tenure in the party witnessed a lot of crisis, while trying to bring some changes in the party.
The governors were too powerful and operated like Emperors.
The party primaries were characterized by manipulations, witch-hunting, and nepotism. Party faithful were not happy including some governors who felt they were sidelined and suppressed. The outgoing president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was not firm in taking decision on these issues as expected.
One of the beauties of democracy is that the party supremacy is essential for a vibrant opposition, democracy and good governance. Once the party is supreme, the people can choose their leaders at will. The interference and influence of government officials, moneybags, and godfathers will be checked. When leaders emerged through the popular choice of the people, the tendency is that such leaders will perform by doing the bid of the people.
Where the governors are the most powerful people in the party; they choose their own cabinet members, choose ministers for the president, choose candidates for elective and appointive positions, there is a problem. It shows that the government and governance of the country has been handed over to a cabal. That was what the PDP did and that was caused the party victory during the last general elections. It is good for democracy and I hope APC will correct such undemocratic tendencies.
I had predicted PDP’s failure when these tendencies were introduced in the party some years and it has come to pass. Naturally the party by omission or commission created a good opportunity for the opposition party to win by not doing things orderly and transparently.
Are you optimistic that APC will do things differently, considering that its members are tagged strange bedfellows?
Every government is structured and determined by the leader. In the state, it is who the governor is that determines what government is. In essence, the question is should Buhari be different. Nigerians have the natural tendencies of following her leaders whether good or bad. If you come in and you are a good man, they will all line up, if you are Owambe person, every one wears his agbada and go town before you.
I feel Buhari will be different from other leaders because of his antecedent. I believe that no man has capacity for change. Any man between the ages of 12 and 18 will likely remain the same for life. Whatever your friend was when you people were leaving secondary school, he will remain the same today. He can hide or pretend, but his actual person will always come to play.
So I believe that Buhari will lead this country on the part of sanity on all fronts. He has the capacity, and he is prepared for it. It doesn’t take long for Nigeria to start getting it right. If the president comes today and decides that the subsidy scam is over, it is over. Buhari has a date with destiny. He has a challenge to deal with and he has a legacy that must be upheld.
Some people have argued that people around Buhari will influence him negatively. But I said well during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration despite that he was a retired military officer, he sacked all the military officers that held political appointments before 1999. Heaven didn’t fall despite that most of the affected military officers are from the North. Throughout Obasanjo’s tenure, there was no whimper from the North over the sack. So Buhari needs to do the right thing because Nigerians are ready to make sacrifice and support him.
Where do you think the incoming government should start from considering the challenges on ground?
I don’t think being a President which is about service is the same thing with being an Emperor. An emperor has a throne to inherit with all its perks, but the job of the president is to serve the people.
The goodness of a leader is demonstrated by the challenges he faces and how he solves them. I also believe that the bigger the challenges the better for a leader to prove his or her mettle. If a leader comes in, and there were no problems, the leader will leave without anybody noticing or remembering him.
When President Obasanjo came into office in 1999, there was practical nothing in the country’s external reserve. The little money left there has been committed to contracts by the outgoing administration. Obasanjo vowed that his administration would increase the external reserve, and clear the country’s external debt.
By the time Obasanjo completed his second term in 2007, his government left almost 50 billion dollars in the external reserve. I believe Buhari can turn things around. Part of our problem with President Jonathan is that we saddled with a president that was not ready to learn. He was not willing to rise to the occasion. Action was missing in President Jonathan’s government. We need a president with strength of character.
Are you happy how the outgoing government of President Jonathan handled the insurgency especially in the Northeast states?
What President Jonathan’s government did in the fight against the insurgents within the last weeks after the general elections were shifted showed what he would have done earlier.
We once took solutions and suggestions to the Presidency on how the insurgency problem can be dealt with. Like every other thing about the government, they waved the idea by the side. We don’t know their reasons. Thank God they wake up belatedly, but I don’t found their excuses tenable. They said US would not supply Nigeria equipment. Let us assume that is true, US is not the only source of equipment. Later the government went to the same place we suggested for them earlier to get equipment.
One thing President Jonathan did well was that he practically demystified the Presidential Villa. Everything about governance was on the street either as a fact or rumour. We need to go deeper than this. Dubai has grown rapidly in recent years because of quality leadership and adequate management of human and material resources.
Before now Nigeria is country of great respect from international community. In the 70’s, Nigerian secondary school and university certificates were respected all over the world. Nigeria is the only country where its yesterday is better than today. It is a place where successive governments are worse than their predecessors. We need to change the trend and restore the country’s lost glory. I hope that the incoming government will end this vicious cycle.
Are Nigerians expecting you to be part of the incoming government?
I have always been part of every government, but on the quiet side. I am writing a book titled “Nigerian Project, My Experience”. Part of it has a chapter I called heroes of democracy. I chronicled the roles on my great Nigerians in sustaining the democracy. I have been involved in Obasanjo, Yar Adua and Jonathan governments, but I do not make noise about it because I have never seen myself as a politician. I have always aspired to be a Statesman. I do not want a place in government. If I had wanted to be a minister, I would have been minister under Late General Sani Abacha’s government. That was when I led the National Centre Party of Nigeria (NCPN) as national chairman. I was offered ministerial position then but I turned it down so that I can continue to play my role as a patriotic Nigerian. I got involved in politics during late Chief MKO Abiola’s period.
Some many people have made serious effort and sacrifices in nurturing the country’s democracy and they are hardly acknowledged or remembered. For example Lt General Abdurrahman Dambazau (rtd) was the Chief of Army Staff at the peak of Late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua’s health saga. The government was at a stage stalled because the cabal hijacked it, and refused vice- president, Goodluck Jonathan from taking over. Everybody knew that the cabal was running the government from Yar Adua’s hospital bed outside the country. So there was confusion and the country was ripe for military takeover, but it never happen.
All Dambazzau needed to do then was to announce military intervention that will be in his own favour or otherwise, but he took a step back and allowed the country to resolve the logjam amicably and constitutionally. He did well and that was how the present democratic government was saved. Apart from Dambazzau, there are several others dead and alive.