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‘Nigerians must applaud Buhari for stance on the budget’


Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi

Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi

Former Minister of State for Education and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, in this interview with some media men in Lagos, speaks on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari so far, his foreign trips, the PDP, attack on the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu by the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, among other issues. Sunny Ogefere was there for The Guardian. Excerpts: 

Buhari’s administration so far
First and foremost in a wonderful situation of history a party other than the party in government won an election, so as such you have a lot of mechanical work, a lot of engineering work, a lot of psychological work, a lot of managing of affairs so it doesn’t fall apart.

Running a country as complex as Nigeria is a difficult process. States are difficult to handle not to talk of Nigeria as a whole. You need what we call a lot of work in balancing it, a lot of work in putting it together and picking from different dimension whether as a criminologist or as a lawyer or one who has been in government at various levels who became a minister in the country.

So if you ask me thus far one year can be said to be very eventful that the entire system didn’t pack up; it is wonderful but it is time for them to now put the clutch into the ground and move the country in the direction they want to go.
Controversy surrounding the 2016 Appropriation Bill

I must confess that Jonathan had a very rough time with his own Senators and National Assembly members with regard to budget, that was how Kabir Tanimu Turaki came as minister of special duties because Jonathan then took whatever they loaded and put it in the hands of a minister so that he will have a direct situation, assess and evaluate actually what was going on.

Obasanjo had it, but Obasanjo was able to roughen it himself, Jonathan had it and when Jonathan was helpless he then created a Ministry of Special Duties; when in such a situation we were able to turn around and go around it and still deal with what we wanted to deal with.

I am very happy that Buhari is living up to expectation with the situation of corruption because what has happened in the budget that we Nigerians have been told will amount to corruption that is not acceptable. For instance the National Assembly can’t recreate the budget, the responsibility of the presentation of what and what we need to do in the country is that of the executive. The legislative arm is responsible and charged to see that those things are right, to see that they are implementable, to see that they are implemented.

Everybody has its own area of the budget, of management of the affairs of the country. If you ask me Buhari noticing those injections, those importations; for instance we talk of the road construction that hasn’t reached the federal government and you put it into the budget. Nigerians must applaud Buhari for noticing it and bringing it to the public, which means as opposed to the situation we use to find there is no cabal between the legislative and executive arm, as such Nigeria stands to benefit more.

Buhari’s frequent trips abroad
You see please leave this nonsense of the Mr. President is over-travelling. I am sure the people don’t understand the government, the running of government, I run an empire and I don’t sit down because my head quarters was in Lagos yesterday and now my headquarters is in Warri or Abuja now I go and sit down there; no, I need to move around to get things happening. What is the President travelling for? What travelling has the President not enjoyed all his life from military days to when he was in London, Germany everywhere? I mean he is not travelling because he wants to be interested in the frivolity of travelling, but you must meet people, you must meet your counterparts, you must discuss your issues, you must ask for assistance. There are a lot of things that needed to be done and you can’t sit down in your cocoon and believe that it will just happen, it isn’t going to work.

The fate of PDP
We are engineering as you know. We will come out of the woods, the most important thing is if you have a situation of irresponsibility you need to weed out that situation and go back to the people who are the electorate, saying sorry this is the position we will not do it again, accept your mistakes before the world and move on.

Bola Tinubu attack on the minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu
Put it this way, who is the Minister of State for Petroleum? This is a young man who is the eldest of his family born to a disciplined judge. His father retired as a judge of the High Court. At 25 he had got a PhD in law with relevant cognacs into the oil industry, he was with an American big oil company, Texaco and rose to become a director. As God will help him he became the legal adviser, company secretary of Mobil Exxon and rose by his own effort to become the Vice Chairman of Mobil Exxon.

I see a lot of ignorance being conveyed by Tinubu with great respect. Firstly he talked about flying a private jet, which is quote and unquote where the issues are. What the minister has done from what I have investigated … the minister wasn’t flying a private jet at its pitfall. This is what we call a joint venture agreement.

Don’t forget Nigeria runs 60 percent joint venture with either Mobil, Shell, Exxon and what have you and these people have used and leveraged on the resources of the 60/40 to own, claim and are operating planes and in any case whether Nigerians like it or not, we must pay those monies because it is part of the contract and because of his knowledge coming from Mobil Exxon up to the level of a Vice President who uses this facility owned by a Nigerian calls those facility to use at no cost to NNPC or the government of Nigeria and the documents are there for the President, the security agencies and everything to investigate. If government has already put something in place all these years and the facility is there why would the minister not take advantage of that facility, whether you and I like it or not tax payers are going to pay for it anyway?

We aren’t saying that Kachikwu bought a plane, we are not saying he owns a plane, we are saying that Kachikwu is leveraging on the available resources already paid for under the government’s JV arrangement to run the affairs, we are not saying the minister took a plane to his house or he took a plane for his medical check up; he is running the affairs to make sure his system is right.

One of the greatest appointments Buhari made was to pick Kachikwu; he is a selfless man, so I am saying if children are driving private jets as you and I know today has become a taxi where you can move from one place to another so making an issue out of the minister of petroleum flying a private jet is an embarrassment to the economy, to the outside world and an embarrassment to Nigeria as a state. We cannot for political aggrandizement to suit our little life styles, tear the system into pieces.

Looking at the issue of fuel scarcity, it is all a temporary situation to arm-twist Mr. President and I would be very disappointed if there is no plan in place to cure permanently the issue of petrol scarcity in Nigeria. So in my own opinion attacking the Central Bank governor is unacceptable. Attacking the Minister of Petroleum which is one of the best materials anywhere in the world, you can’t find his counterpart in anywhere in the world, so I don’t believe that he is right.

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