Why desired change may not be immediate, by Onu
Says APC ready, prepared to make sustainable change
The leader of one of the major political power blocks that formed the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Minister of Science and Technology Dr. Ogbonnya Onu has given fresh insight into why Nigeria’s economic recovery process was yet to go in full throttle.
For the desired change to come, the APC-led government would need to operate its own budget for two to three fiscal years, he stated in an exclusive interview with The Guardian in Abuja.
According to him, since the 2015 budget was still in operation, no major change could come until the 2016 budget and subsequent ones come into effect.
Asked if he was worried that the desired change seemed far away from Nigerians who yearned for it, he retorted: “No, no, no! The point is that people are not telling Nigerians what they should tell them. They should tell Nigerians that it is because things were bad that was why we came in.
“Do you know that the budget that we are operating is the budget of 2015? So how is the magic going to happen? This administration has not operated its own budget. The budget has not been approved! It is only when we operate a budget, then you will see the changes come. The hardship was not caused now. It is hardship that has been there. And it was because of that hardship that Nigerians voted for APC. APC is ready, prepared, determined to make change, change that is sustainable.”
On when the desired change would come, Onu said: “Give us two or three budgets, and you will start seeing changes. When I tell people they say they didn’t realize that we have not even spent one day with our own budget.
He noted for instance that some agencies in his ministry got zero capital allocation in the 2015 budget and wondered where the change was going to come from with that kind of budget. He argued that the current administration needed to operate the first, second and third budgets before the changes would begin to manifest.
Onu said that the government was working very hard to take Nigerians out of hardship, adding: “I enter this office 8am every day! I am talking about myself. I enter here 8am. We fix meetings at 8am and people come. If you like come in here at 8am tomorrow. There is change. But the budget that is being operated now is not helping matters.
“Look at the budget that came from National Assembly. I don’t want to comment on it, because people have already commented. I am happy that the National Assembly on its own has agreed that things can’t continue the same way if you need to make change.”
“So, that is why they are going to revise it to some degree. If we have a reasonable budget that is in line with the vision of Mr. President, there will be change. The President made electoral promises and he should be allowed to implement them. If he is implementing the budget of the immediate past administration, where do you want the change to come from? I am asking you!”
The minister insisted that government meant well for the people despite the hardship that people currently face.
His words: “What people don’t realize is that if there was not a change in government, the situation in the country would have been unbearable by now. Look at the cost of crude oil falling from $140 per barrel at some point, to $26. We had a bad situation where we virtually depended on money from crude oil, even to import food. We are importing rice. We are importing sugar, wheat, even corn. We are importing virtually everything into the country. I am talking about food! I am not even talking about equipment, machines and all that. It is this administration that has tried to block all these leakages. Otherwise, the effect would have been very severe.
“There are two major areas that this administration has made substantial progress. One is security and there is no doubt that the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East has been reasonably checked. They have been properly degraded. The other one, which is very important with far reaching implications for our economic revival, is the image of the nation. The image of the nation was so bad that even with our money, we had difficulties buying weapons.
“We were not asking for the weapons to be given to us on credit or through a loan, but with our own money, yet we were refused. You know how Nigerians were being treated all over. But now, the image is improving substantially. Once we are able to get the security situation in all parts of the country to improve, it would help investors to come in, because without the President traveling, it would be difficult for us to have this improvement in the image of the country. His travels are very essential.
Speaking against the backdrop of the disquiet in the ruling APC, Onu who was the governor of old Abia State in the short-lived third Republic noted that such schisms were normal whenever several independent entities fuse together, expressing optimism that the party would shake off the drawback soon.
He argued that the formation of the APC came at a time most people didn’t expect that it would come because it has never happened before. According to him, the emergence of APC through the merger of three opposition political parties to control government was the first of its kind and was bound to have some challenges
“It is very rare in the world. You can have alliances; you can have coalitions, because if things go bad, people can pull out and go their different ways. But with merger, it is like giving up your own name, your own identity. You can see that naturally there would be some challenges when you bring three parties together. But APC has done very well so far.
“The cleavages that seems to be there are not really there. I believe that with time, whatever maybe the challenges confronting the party would be sorted out. But let’s not forget that this is the very first time that this is happening. And there is need for people to see the benefit of this development to peace in Nigeria, Africa and the world in general.”
Onu asserted that APC has shown that if fragmented opposition political parties could come together and be able to defeat the ruling party by providing a platform and rallying point for aggrieved persons to realize their objective instead of resorting to illegal and violent means, it was a just course worthy of emulation.
“That is what APC has done. It tells the world that there is no need doing all the things that used to happen before, not even military changes that Africa was used to because people felt that there was no better way you could use to remove incumbents from office.
“Right now, this is a major contribution to world peace. You will realize that what has happened in Nigeria will happen in other parts of Africa and it will help to bring political stability, and it will help to reduce the tension that would have been there, and the crises which used to bring up a lot of problems in the area of refugees, in the area of internally displaced persons in their own countries, etc.”
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