Okechukwu: 2019 will be referendum on APC’s performance
• Nigerians Should Join Buhari To Monitor APC Functionaries
Mr. Osita Okechukwu, the spokesman for Southeast leadership caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and newly appointed Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, examines the first one year of the ruling party and performance of President Muhammadu Buhari in office.
In one of his interviews with a foreign television network, Al Jazeera, President Buhari said he has not failed in the fight against Boko Haram; in what other areas do you think Mr. President has not failed after one year in office?
In consonance with the manifesto of our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to wage strident war against corruption, to fight Boko Haram insurgency, insecurity in all forms and to revamp the economy. In my own assessment Mr. President scored excellent grade in his war against corruption. He is committed and passionate in waging the war against corruption. In fact, he raised the bar by unraveling some horrendous scams like the infamous Dasukigate. He defined corruption by proclaiming that if Nigerians fail to kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. It is a landmark statement, a wakeup call, for all to join in waging the war. He understood that corruption undermined Nigeria, stifled development and unfortunately changed the thought processes of our people.
But pundits have alluded to the downside of the war against corruption, as being selective…
There is no fact in such allusion; it is just like calling a dog a bad name; a smear campaign to score cheap political points. For instance, how can government probe me for the Dasukigate bar, which took place in the Office of National Security Adviser (NSA), when I was neither the NSA nor a partaker and member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)? Or how can government probe someone who is neither the Director General of NIMASA (Nigeria Maritime Services Agency), official of the agency or contractor? Let them name any APC member being shielded by the president, not insinuation or allusion as you said. I stand to be contradicted.
Fingers point in the directions of the Minister of Transport and Power, Works and Housing.
They were never indicted and nobody has come up with any tangible proof of their involvement in embezzlement or corrupt practices. For instance, in the 100-page report released by the Rivers State panel, I could not locate any line where Rotimi Amechi was indicted. Same goes for Babatunde Fashola. These are all speculations, what I advise the speculators to do is to monitor us, now that we are in power.
A lot of people still hold the view that even as a democratic president, Buhari has poor human rights records, what do you think?
I have also heard a lot of people charging the regime of human right abuses, especially the security agencies of human rights infractions. There may be few instances, but they can only be located in the war zone. It is trite law that emergencies most times impact on the rule of law. Otherwise, one cannot see where the government is breaching human rights or rule of law. If not for the president’s adherence to the rule of law and by extension human rights, in his hey days as military head of state, those who embezzled or diverted money meant to secure the country and save lives, could have been heavily dealt with.
The budget was signed into law after much ado; can that budget bring about the fulfilment of APC programmes?
The budget is a pro-people’s budget and as Mr. President stated, it is an article of faith and social contract with Nigerians. Remember, this is the first budget in over a decade, where the budget has 30 percent voted for capital projects, which will be fully implemented. This year’s budget will be free from corruption that castrated, undermined and was in fact the bane of previous budget implementations. Incidentally, this is happening at a time when the oil price has nosedived. It is interesting to note that outside the N500b provided for the vulnerable, monies were also voted for job creation, technology parks, revamping of Enugu Coal and other items, which will stimulate the economy.
Why did your party deny that it had a pact with Nigerians?
It wasn’t denial per se. My understanding can be located in the old dictum, which says that success has many fathers. There were skepticism and cynicism during President Buhari’s tortuous journey to the presidency; he had poor followership in the south in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 presidential elections. But immediately, we finished our job in the merger committee and APC got registered, interest increased and there was kind of surge.
Those who didn’t believe that we will be registered weaned themselves of the cynicism, some hung out until December 10, 2014, when we had a clean, transparent, free and fair presidential primary. The huge surge then came with all manner of tendencies, some came with their own ideas on how to govern Nigeria and some even forgot that we have our stamped and registered manifesto with INEC. They went full blast with all manner of promises, depending on either one’s geopolitical tendencies or pet ideas on how best to transform our dear country. You may not believe that President Buhari never read some. It was the case of success with many fathers.
In Kano, Bayelsa, Enugu, Ebonyi APC is in turmoil, don’t you think that like PDP and impunity, your party has become attuned to rascality?
No, No, No! As I said earlier, when we were in our micro defunct Congress for Progressive Change in Enugu State, for instance, we had little or no faction and no turmoil. Why? Because our chances of winning the governorship or senate in a PDP dominated Enugu State was very slim. There is what we call the Moth Theory in Political Science; it says politicians behave like Moth, a nocturnal insect, which hunts for warmth. It perches only on bulbs with light and moves immediately the bulb is without light.
APC is a prime vehicle to power, therefore it attracts more people, the surge to our great party is a liability as well as an asset. My happiness is that the leadership of the party is working round the clock to negotiate compromise and build consensus. The other day, Olagunsoye Oyinlola panel was set up to find lasting solution in the Edo chapter before the party’s primary. This is the traditional role of political parties, since our core objective is to win state power. Winning State power and sharing is the major difference between political parties and social clubs or Christian Association of Nigeria and Jamatu Nasril Islam.
What would be the appropriate index to test the party’s performance in office by 2019?
The only appropriate index is 2019 general election; because election is the referendum on incumbent political parties and their officials ranging from the president to the councilor. Without being immodest, the APC, under President Muhammadu Buhari will perform excellently. With his zero tolerance to corruption badge, his budget will be executed up to 80 percent. Nigerians should join hands with the president to monitor the activities of the ministers, heads of departments and agencies. This is the only way to make sure that the critical infrastructure like power, railways, roads, waterways, solid minerals extraction and projects are prudently executed.