You allegedly said Nigerians should stone APC leaders, if the party failed to perform after two years. Did you actually make that statement?
Yes, I said so. I said if APC does not perform. In fact, the interview where I made the statement is still on my website. I said if things did not go as usual, I am quite sure we will perform by 2019. I also granted another interview where I said if in two years we do not perform, we should be stoned. Though it is not yet two years that this government was sworn-in, I am now telling you that we cannot be stoned because we have performed. To me, President Buhari has performed creditably well. To some others, even if the people of Mars say the president has performed, I know of others in Nigeria who will still not agree that the president has performed. So, I am confidently saying that as at now, nobody can say Buhari has not performed and this is before the end of his first two years in office. Now, we promised to secure Nigeria. We also said that we will stabilise the land through infrastructural development and then, there will be prosperity. So, the campaign foccused on tackling insecurity, fighting corruption and also reviving the economy. In the area of insecurity, there were 14 local governments under the control of Boko Haram in Borno state. As things were going, if Buhari had not been elected president, by now, many of us would have run away or died because Boko Haram would have taken over Abuja. Today, where is Boko Haram? In the latest video posted by Shekau, there were four people behind him and a voice supporting what he was saying but you can’t see the crowd. It is obvious that Boko Haram is finished. Gone are the days when they will decimate a whole village and hoist their flags. So, in the area of security, nobody can say that we have not performed.
What about corruption?
In the area of corruption, nobody can say that we have not tried. The fear of the EFCC today is the beginning of wisdom for corrupt ones. Everybody who has anything to hide is jittery of the EFCC, if not on the run. On the economy, nobody can now say Nigeria solely depends on oil. Everybody now sees agriculture emerging. People are now going to the farm. In fact, many of the farmers today are smiling to the banks. Another thing that people are not looking at is what is happening in the Southeast. I am confidently saying that a lot of our votes in 2019 will come from the southeast. Then, Enugu- Onitsha road was not addressed for the four years that Goodluck Jonathan was there. Enugu-Port Harcourt road was also not addressed. They were singing songs about Second Niger Bridge and not much was done. The erosion sites were all and neglected. Now, these issues involved a lot of capital and are now being addressed in the Southeast. Many leaders in the Southeast are seeing what APC is doing and are now moving in droves to the APC to help galvanise support for the party. So, we are performing and I am saying nobody can say they want to stone us if they are real in their assessment in the area of security, fighting corruption, and in the development of the economy.
You said the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom. What do you make of the rejection of Acting EFCC Chairman; Ibrahim Magu for a second time even after President Buhari has given him a clean bill of health?
All these are areas of lack of understanding. The Senate, whether we like it or not, is to do the confirmation of those that the constitution says should be confirmed by the senate. People like ministers, ambassadors, judges etc. But, those not to be confirmed by the Senate are those the president can appoint for himself. The constitution shares power among the organs of government: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. So, if you want to know the limit of your power, you go to the constitution and point to the section that grants you that power. Specifically on Magu, if the senate refuses to confirm, that does not mean the powers of the president to appoint is removed. The senate can refuse to confirm him 100 million times and the president can send the name to the senate 100 million times. He can be Acting EFCC chairman for 100 thousand years, if he lives up to that time. So, there is no problem at all if we understand what we are supposed to do.
What do you make of the decision of the senate asking the president to replace him with another person?
That is why I said everyone must know the limit of his power. They cannot dictate to the president what to do. You can only reject him for confirmation. The president knows what to do next. If the president likes, he can send his name to the senate one million times. if he likes he can replace him with another person.
There is this general belief that President Buhari has lost control of his government to the cabals. What do you make of this?
All these show how much interest there is in the affairs of the EFCC. The EFCC is breaking bones right, left, front and centre and it is natural that some people will feel uncomfortable about that. If there is more than one report from the presidency on Magu, I have no hesitation to say it is indiscipline. But that doesn’t mean that the president has lost control. Everybody who knows the president knows that he gives responsibilities and then gives you the authorization. He is not those who will ask you to do something and will not give you the free hand to do it. That is his own way of governance. During his time as military head of state, his second-in-command, the late Tunde Idiagbon was very visible but that doesn’t imply that Buhari was not in control because he was the one who gave Idiagbon the work he did. The same thing is happening with Osinbajo today. Now, compared that to what happened between Obasanjo and Atiku between 2003 -2007. Buhari will always allow others to do job. There are some people who become envious because their subordinates are succeeding; not Buhari. He doesn’t compete with his subordinates and I tell you nobody is competing with him. The loyalty to him is total.
What is the way out of the face-off between the Senate and the Presidency?
There is no stand-off between the presidency and the senate. You know, all these things are routine in democracy. People may try to exceed their powers, but the beauty of democracy is that you put them where they belong. What powers do they have to summon Prof. Sagay? People have been quoting Tony Momoh vs the Senate. When I was the editor of Daily Times, the National Assembly invited me because we wrote something in the Grapevine column titled ‘MPs, Senators and Cards’. We said that some elected people, the highest elected body in Nigeria, should behave to sustain the image of that height because some of them will go to banks to seek loans. When they ask them for collateral, they will bring complimentary cards. They were not many that do this, but few. So, we pointed to this that they should be called to order. They became angry and started debating Tony Momoh and said I should come to tell them who among them were doing so. I told them I am not coming and I went to court that the invitation be quashed because the sergeant-at-arms has the powers of the Commissioner of Police. They can arrest you if you refuse to come. By the time the issue came up for hearing, they had withdrawn the invitation. I still went to court and the court addressed the powers of the senate, which is anchored in the constitution. I am a private citizen, editor of Daily Times. In fact, the senate invited me earlier because we said their salary was too high. They said we should come and tell them our salary in Daily Times. I said I am not coming for the fact that the Managing Director of Daily Times, Dele Cole, was sent from the Cabinet Office to be the MD. So, I said since he is a public officer, he can go. He went. It is not that one is stubborn by not going, but they have no right to call me to tell you what my salary is. I refused to go and the court told them the limit of their powers.
So, Prof. Sagay was right when he said they have no powers to summon him?
Of course! Why should they summon him? He has freedom of speech. He can say what he likes. If anybody is angry, then, they should take him to court. How can they ask him to appear before them? That is not their power. The power to call people for adjudication belongs to the judiciary. You can’t be a judge in your own case.
Many of your supporters are angry that they worked for this party, yet they are not being taken care of almost two years after the party came into power. Some even argued that many supporters of the PDP are still holding crucial positions in the government. What is your take on this?
About 73 million persons were registered to vote. We had 15 million votes and all of them are entitled to positions. But, how many positions are available? Everybody wants to be recognised for what they have done, but how many positions are there? My area of concern is to create an environment where people can do what they know how to do best. Not everybody can take political positions. Having said that, many APC members are angry especially because PDP people ought to have been removed but the fact is that Buhari is a democrat that annoys many other democrats because many other democrats are not tolerant. Democracy is anchored on the rule of law. Many of this people you call PDP members are there because of statutory position of their being there. If they have senate clearance to be there for years, you can’t remove them. I know some people may not like what I want to say now, but the truth is that many of these so-called PDP members who are holding positions are Nigerians. What if they have services to render and they are delivering in their positions? Should we move them out? This is my personal opinion.
What is your reaction to the release of the 2019 election timetable by the INEC?
INEC did not release anything. It only says you can predict the election that we will have in 2023, 2027 and even 2031. If you look at the constitution, it says the election must be conducted by a particular period before swearing in. That is the way to look at it. Anybody can work it out. There is nothing about heating up the polity. Politicians always heat up the polity. The fact is that Nigerians never end politicking. When elections are over, governance begins. Everybody is aware of this but they play politics throughout, which is wrong. This is the time for governance, not politics but some people are playing politics. Some people are even already consulting that I want to be this and that. Yet, they don’t know if they will live till then. Why do you think there was so much noise about the president’s illness? Some were even praying for him to die. It happened in the time of Yar;Adua, it happened in the time of Obasanjo. It also happened during the time of Azikiwe.
Will you advise the president to run in 2019, given his current state of health?
Am I the one to advise him? The president is entitled to two terms and then, he defeated all other candidates in the primary and his ticket to run between 2015 and 2019 was not negotiated. If he had said he will only do one term, then, one can start discussing whether he should seek re-election or not. The man is elected until 2019. At that time, God willing, he will express his intention. In 2011, he said he wasn’t interested anymore, but a lot of people pushed him to be interested and he ran. So, even if he says he is not interested in 2019 now, by that time, people will push him to be interested. And based on his performance, I don’t think even if he wants to go, people will allow him to go.
As a chieftain of the APC, are you happy with the way the affairs of the party are being managed?
Absolutely no. There are lot of problems in running the party. You can’t run the party without money. For instance, all the governors ought to be paying something every month. All the elected members ought to be paying something every month. The NASS ought to be paying something every month. All political appointees ought to be paying something every month to run the party. But, how much have they paid? You can’t run the party without money. Who is going to fund the party? It is as simple as that. That is the first basic thing. The party organs are all there; about 14 to 18 party organs from polling units, through the wards to local government, state, geo-political level and then, the national. All these are party men and they need to fund the party. Look at the Edo and Ondo elections. How much did the party give? Once someone has the ticket, the party takes over. But, the APC has no money to take over. So, people just blame the party for nothing. Democracy is not a child’s play. The key thing is money. The other one is organization and you can’t organise without money. Money is the fundamental thing.