Politics

Tinubu must turn 360-degree from Buhari’s failure

•Nigerians may revolt against government due to food crisis

 

Elder Sunday Oibe is the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), North-West Zone, comprising seven states. He is also the General Secretary, CAN in the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

In this interview with NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna, Elder Oibe said the best advice he could give President Bola Tinubu for now was for the President to detach himself or his government from the immediate past government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

This, according to the cleric, was for Tinubu to avoid the failures of that government rubbing off on his own administration that is struggling to get out of the socio-economic woods he inherited.

Elder Oibe also advised President Tinubu that if something is not done urgently, Nigerians may revolt against his government due to a looming food crisis in coming years.

Is there anything President Tinubu has done differently that is so dear to your heart so far?

The two issues that I can doff my hat for Tinubu are the issues of subsidy removal and the local government autonomy that he is advocating. But the other thing that I want to encourage him is that the battle has not been won yet, but we can see the seemingly reduction in the issue of kidnapping and banditry. But in the last couple of weeks, the thing has reared its ugly head again. When Jonathan was almost winning the war Buhari said they are killing the Northerners, and that statement weakened the military to go after them. Tinubu should know that he took the oath to defend and protect this country. And the responsibility of any government all over the world is to protect the rights of its citizenry. So, as much as some of us are praising him for the agitation of local government autonomy and subsidy removal, one of the legacies that he will leave behind and people will remember him for a long time is to go frontal and defeat the bandits. They are not spirits, they can be defeated. Nigerian soldiers are not weak. The federal government knows the sponsors of these terrorists; let government go after them. If you want to cut a tree and you cut the branches, it will spring up again and bear other branches. But if you cut the tap root, the tree will die. Those people who are the promoters and financiers of Boko Haram and kidnappers, President Tinubu should be courageous enough to grab them without hiding them anywhere. And he should uproot them from the tap root, then Nigeria can go to sleep. I give you an example. Some of us farm because there is no business anywhere, but over the last three years I don’t go to farm. I have a friend, an Hausa man, he has a big farm on the way to Birnin Gwari, but for the past two years, he has abandoned the farm with the workers. I was cracking a joke with him the other day that he should resume farming, and he said, Oga Sunny, do you have 50 or 100 million naira to pay them if they kidnap me? The implication is that food crisis is staring us in the face because farmers are not farming and if nothing is done and we allow this food crisis to continue, that is one of the things that will make the government of President Tinubu not to stand. So he must do everything possible to make the country governable, because the issue of ungoverned spaces is the problem we are having now. And if he does not make it governable, and Nigerians revolt against it, he will not be able to curtail it. So these non-state actors cannot determine how government should be. The people behind them are living with us. They should be brought to book because they are not greater than Nigeria. So if he tackles the issue of insecurity, then I can say he has done well.

Nigeria has gone back to the old national anthem. What’s your view on that?

The issue is this, whether it is the old or new national anthem, that is not Nigeria’s problem. Nigeria has not been lacking in law and order, but the political will to implement it and put it to use. The fact that we can sing the national anthem, does it translate to unity and peace? Will they allow your son from Kogi State to stay in Sokoto and contest to become local government chairman there? The answer is no. Will they allow you to have a land in Maiduguri and build your church? The answer is no. That is where the problem is. It is not the reciting and singing of the national anthem that is the problem. When the heart of a man is black, every other thing that he does remains black. No wonder one Professor said that Africans are black to their hearts; they don’t need to be taught mathematics. What he simply means is that you and I, Nigerians, are the problems of this country. And I guess it goes back to the British who colonised us that brought this divide and rule system to us. We can recite the new or the old anthem till tomorrow, if your heart is not willing to accommodate me, it will stop at lip service. Let’s match our words with actions; that is what will move Nigeria forward. Today, if I want to apply for job, it is no longer about merit, it is about where do you come from? What is your religion? Stupid questions. It shouldn’t be about religion but prerequisite qualifications for the job. Why are Nigerians elected in UK and America? It is about capacity, it is not about where they come from. There is a young lady in UK, as I was told, that was frustrated in Nigeria even from going to school in the first place. But with determination, she went to school. Today she is an elected official in the UK, in another person’s country. They did not look at where she comes from. They looked at her capacity. So the national anthem is a thing that can reform Nigeria. It is the lack of the political will, the blackness of our hearts that is making Nigeria to take two steps forward, 15 backward. So I am not losing my sleep because of the national anthem. The issue is that, are our politicians even honest to themselves? Let’s see the humanity in them. Let’s see humanity in ourselves, not colour or tribal marks. And when we begin to see humanity in one another, this country will be a better place for all of us. You go to the market to buy a cup of sugar, it will not be sold to you at a cheaper rate because you are an Hausa man, and at a higher price because you are an Igbo man. The price cuts across. So may God help us to understand that it is not the issue of national anthem that is the problem. It is our individual willingness to do the right thing or not that is the problem.

Majority of state governors are not comfortable with President Tinubu’s vow to ensure local government autonomy. What is your reaction to this?

Well, I think it is even long overdue to allow local government areas have their autonomy. We even thought that when President Muhammadu Buhari came to power with the boast that he would fight corruption, he should have been able to right the wrong by giving the local government the autonomy we are talking about. This is one of the bold steps Tinubu has taken. When we were growing up as children, it was the local government authority that we know because that is the government that is closer to the people. If the local government autonomy is granted, there will be less competition at the centre. The local government will be able to deliver services to the people. The governors cannot be comfortable because they are taking the allocation of the local government and they are living bigger than they earn. So that is why they are not comfortable with Tinubu’s bold move to ensure autonomy for the local councils across the country. If we look at the 2014 national conference report under the then President Goodluck Jonathan, local government autonomy was part of the things he was fighting for, but they ganged up against him. So Nigerians who love this country should encourage Tinubu because local government autonomy will bring development to the people, make the people to take their eyes off the national and state governments. And then there will be less competition. A professor once contested for local government chairmanship elections. Why? Because this is the government of the people for real. The national government is hanging up there. It is not the government of the people. The government of the people and by the people should be at the local government level. Where are the health centres, clean culverts and primary schools we attended in those days? When I visited recently the primary school I attended, I almost shed tears. That is where everybody from my place that is a big man today finished from. That was when the local government had its autonomy. So I am 100 per cent in support of Tinubu to ensure that local government autonomy becomes operational. He must follow it up to make sure that local government get its autonomy. And the state governors who don’t want it can jump into the lagoon.

The state governors have said they can’t pay a N60,000 minimum wage. What amount would you suggest as minimum wage?

My heart is sick when I begin to hear elected political leaders talking as if they are insane. In Nigeria of today they are saying they cannot pay Nigerian workers N60,000, as if it is their fathers’ money. Is it not the money for everybody? They became governors, now their wives and children are picking bags of N20 to N100 million from shops. Their sons going to party to buy wine of N150,000, and the same governors are telling us they cannot pay workers N60,000. It is madness of the highest order. God has blessed this country beyond reasonable doubt. Nobody should complain that there is no money to pay. Okay, they cannot pay? How much is the salary of a governor? How much is the salary of the State House of Assembly members? How much is the take home of the National Assembly members? These people are living extravagant lives and we are seeing it before ourselves. Now the workers who are the engines of the government, they said they cannot pay them N60,000. I think Nigerians should rise up against those governors who cannot pay. Any governor who cannot pay minimum wage should resign and go. God has blessed every state in this country. There is no state in this country that does not have mineral resources in large commercial quantities. The reason is that the governors are very lazy, they are always waiting for allocation from the federal government, and once it comes, they begin to fly to Dubai, fly all over the world and begin to spend people’s money. They don’t want to pay the minimum wage because they want to continue to enjoy the booty of the people. They have enough money to pay. And the demand of labour is not crazy. The market prices of goods have gone up seriously. The other day I was by the roadside talking to a friend and a yam hawker was just passing. My friend wanted to buy a tuber of yam, and the seller said it is N4,500. He refused to accept N3000. Even at N4200, he refused to sell. My friend ended up buying it for N4,500 because the man complained of the cost of transportation. How much is a measure of garri? How about rice? How much is maize? And how will people survive under this type of environment? So to me, what the labour is demanding is not crazy. But they have to take the process gradually. Labour has to come down, the governors have to step up their games. I will say that the minimum wage should go for N150,000 for now. There is nothing wrong with this.

What is your assessment of President Tinubu’s one year in office?

It is too early for me to score President Tinubu on one year in office because one year is just 12 months down the line. But if I must be honest, we are watching keenly what the President is doing. My grouse with him is that the very day he took over power, his first pronounment has brought us to where we are today. No reasonable Nigerian will be against removal of subsidy because they were empowering some criminals at the expense of the rest of us. So the issue of subsidy removal is long overdue. But the issue there is that before you go on with that kind of austerity, you look at the right, look at the left and begin to weigh all the options because any thing that touches oil touches everybody. It is a good policy but came at the wrong time because there must be palliative to cushion the effect of that. When he made that pronouncement, he put us to where we are. The policy is a wonderful policy, it is a courageous policy, and I doff my cap for him, but he did the right thing at the wrong time. He should have thought about it well before coming out. He shouldn’t have made the pronouncement the day he took over power because Nigerians have been thrown into penury, poverty and hunger. And it is so high now because of that pronouncement. So I fault him in that area. Also, in the area of his other appointments, we are also watching keenly if he is able to take Nigeria as his constituency to balance in terms of appointments. Let him not undermine the minority. Let the appointment cut across board. A minority put together becomes majority in this country. So Nigeria is not about Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa alone. There are other tribes in Nigeria. All of them are stakeholders because this is our fatherland. He should look into the plight of the minorities and take it into cognizance. So I am not going to score him now because it is too early in the day to score him, but I think I need to draw his attention to these areas.

Some Nigerians said Tinubu has performed well in the last one year, considering the number of socio-economic challenges he inherited from his predecessor. What do you have to say to this?

Like I said, it depends on which angle you are looking at. People who are close to the corridors of power, who are feeding very well, might score him very high. And to me this is a continuous government of APC. Tinubu was an active player in the last administration. He was the national leader of the political party. He contributed so much as an individual to bring Buhari to power. The success story and failure of Buhari rubs on him. It is a continuous government, so as for me if we are talking about the failure of history, there should be a 360-degree turnaround, shifting from what Buhari was doing. It is only then we can say, yes, you are good to go. There are so many things Tinubu is doing that are good; like the removal of fuel subsidy is wonderful , local government autonomy, is wonderful. But I don’t want to divulge him from the Buhari regime because it is the same six and seven pence that is in power.

There is this allegation by prominent Nigerians that Nigeria is secretly paying for fuel subsidy while citizens are buying fuel through their noses. What is your reaction over this allegation?

Well, I don’t respond to speculations. If they provide us with facts and we know, we will talk. Because in this political era, there are so many things happening. Some people have refused to divulge politicking from governance. Politics has come and gone, now governance is a serious business. I heard the former governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-rufai saying the fuel subsidy was not removed, that government is still paying for it. But people find it difficult to believe El-rufai because he talks from the two sides of his mouth at the same time. So I will not be able to join the train of comments on this until we are able to get all the facts.

It is strongly believed that removal of fuel subsidy is responsible for the skyrocketing prices of all goods and services in the country. Do you think it can be reversed?

Like I said, subsidy removal if it was there to empower some certain people at the expense of you and I, and now Tinubu has the boldness to remove it, I have no problem with that removal. Nigerians are not crying that the subsidy has been removed. Nigerians are not angry that the subsidy has been removed, the timing was wrong. If you remember, when former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to remove fuel subsidy, the Wole Soyinkas of this world occupied the streets. If it was implemented that time, we will not be here talking about what we are talking about right now. So I am not against fuel subsidy removal, but I am against the timing. The timing was wrong. You have taken over power, the first thing that comes to your mind is that the subsidy is gone. And you did not put any palliative in place to cushion the effect. That is why we are suffering today. At some points we were buying a litre of fuel for N1400 to N2000. A country of the middle class crumbled, the purchasing power was not there because Nigerians like to take advantage of everything. So that was why there were hues and cry. So I am not advocating for reversal of fuel subsidy. It should go but let’s see how the money made from subsidy removal is being used. Government does not do wickedness. But those implementing government policies are the ones causing the problems. I will give you an example. How can you discriminate against Nigerians because our constitution says they should not discriminate against Nigerians. Now the electricity distributors say there is band A B C. And this is the same environment. Some are paying high, others are paying less for electricity. I give you example. If I buy N10,000 units, it lasts me only three days. I have a friend who spends N2500, and he has seven people in his house. And I have only four people in my house. So what is the basis for this band thing? That is discriminatory. It must be uniform charges for everybody. Nigeria belongs to all of us. And government must not use policies to punish the people. Most businesses that depend on light to survive have gone packing. It is this coupled with subsidy removal that is giving us this headache.

Permutations for 2027 general elections are already on. Don’t you think it is too early for that?

(Laughs) Do you know why I laughed? Politicians cannot stop amusing us. Tinubu was elected to run the affairs of the country for four years. He has just done one year. And now they are doing permutations for 2027. The question I need to ask them; how many of them, including me that is talking, or you, whether we will live to see 2027? Tomorrow is in the hand of God. They should stop distracting Mr. President. They should not confuse him, they should allow him to think about the business of governance. To me it is too early in the day to talk about 2027. Secondly, our politicians, once they got what they want, they begin to change the system. I hope Nigerians should learn enough and begin to tell politicians, enough is enough. President Tinubu should not allow himself to be confused. He should not allow himself to be dribbled. If he is focused on delivering services to the people who elected him, then he should know that he has just spent 12 months out of the four years that is constitutionally mandatory to stay in office, so let him focus on business of governance. Tomorrow is in the hand of God. And 2027 is in the hand of God. Those who are doing the permutations, do they know if they are going to see the end of this year? So they should shut up their mouths and allow us to have peace for goodness sake.

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