ALHAJI BAMAnGA TUKUR IS A SEASONED BUSINESSMAN AND POLITICIAN. A FORMER GOVERNOR OF old GONGOLA STATE AND NOW CHAIRMAN OF PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP). HE SPOKE WITH STANLEY NKWAZEMA ON VARIOUS POLITICAL AND NATIONAL ISSUES INCLUDING THE CONTROVERSIAL CREATION OF STATE POLICE, THE ELECTION IN ONDO STATE
Let’s start from where you made your mark, the Nigeria Ports Authority. What would you say were the legacies you left behind. How come at the end of the day you decided to go into politics?
I started politics in 1959, when I contested election into the Federal House, that was before Nigeria’s Independence. Therefore, it is not a terrain I am unfamiliar with. But of course then as a young person, from there I now went into what I now called , cutting teeth in whatever I have been or I am in today.
Yes , NPA was the greatest challenge we had in the country then. It started when we had the strongest effect of congestion. Immediately after the Civil War, the Federal Government had the programme of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. The savings we made during the civil war, we decided to start immediately, and as we know the port is the interface between the land and the sea. It is the door. We were hungry to rebuild, construct and move on.
So the importation of different items into the country were terribly done. The orders that were made were in excess of what we could evacuate easily. They ordered cement in excess of five million tonnes, ships were coming daily, credit lines were opened and the entire water space of Nigeria became occupied. We were paying demurrages instead of saving the money we made, we were not only spending money rehabilitating, construction, but were also paying that money on demurrage . That was the time I had the greatest challenge.
I worked with someone they called Black Scorpion, Col. Benjamin Adekunle of the 3rd Marine Commando. Because of that, General Gowon felt he should make the difference because he was a very active officer. He asked him to come and see how we can decongest the port. Of course I am a professional and he was giving me what you can call covering fire, so that we can now make sense of what we can do to wriggle out of these stumbling congestion I was saddled with.
But under my watch, during the General Murtala Mohammed/Olusegun Obasanjo regime was when I made the biggest impact. It was then we were able to build the extension of the Container Terminal, Kirikiri, Warri, Sapele and Calabar Terminals. Besides, the Tin Can Island Port was the real premier of our construction. We did that. I improved the infrastructure to what we can call from factors one to Factor five. If I can say, I mean about 500 per cent. And today what is standing as the edifice, 70 per cent of it was constructed and developed under my watch.
Now you are in the PDP, you did promise the same innovations. Many feel that the greatest opposition to PDP is the PDP itself especially the National Assembly. How do you intend to handle the divisions?
I am one of the founders and promoters of the PDP as a party. It was founded on the principles of inclusiveness, it was meant to be a grassroots party. There was to be no imposition of people to harass anybody. It was meant to democratise the country and ensure that Nigeria takes its pride of place in the committee of nations, and promote and develop democracy for the people. So in anything you do, there can be some mistakes. I came back to PDP simply, because it was nose-diving. And because it is nose diving, we started losing states and I knew that our members were deserting.
They had the perceptions that they were not happy with a lot of things, so the only thing I could do is a pay back, to really do what I really believe is the wish or the policy of the PDP, to come back. Now am back. You cannot come back into anything without a programme. I came with a programme. You did mention about people not coming together.
I gave them what I called the TRIPLE R--Reconciliation without confrontation, Reformation without revenge, Rebuilding the party based on Equity and Justice. I presented that to our own NEC .That’s the ruling body of the party, they have given me the mandate to carry out this, and I know whatever God has given to the United States of America, Britain Japan and the Europeans, God has given it to Nigeria and Africa also. God has given us land, water and people. God has given us the environment upon which to survive, now let me give you the TRIPLE E: Energy Security, Environment Sustainability and Education.
God has given us the environment upon which to survive. What we need to do is to educate our people to take up the control of these elements. We are crying about energy, what do you do with energy if you get it? The simplest thing which you do every day in your home is boil water, is it? Every day, we use energy to boil water. If we can cut wood and light it, put your pot on it , you can boil water. But with education, if you tell that man or that woman cutting the wood, anytime that you cut the wood, please replant, so that he will have that energy all the time.
If you educate him, he knows how he can organise to give you Hydro, what do you get?, you get electricity, you can also boil water with that electricity. Or is it education? , Now the land God has given to you, you can extract oil, you get kerosene, light your stove to boil water. Or , look up, see the sun, solar you get it and you can boil water. Your energy requirement is complete.The man in the village can boil water by cutting wood and sustaining it. The man who is the town can boil water with electricity; the man who is in the city can use the Solar. Are you not satisfied? So you take steps to educate your people to take control of the environment. So this is environment sustainability. As you can see now, we are all crying because we did not take care of the environment. If we build dams, waterways, the water comes and it will channel itself. So I gave the them the TRIPLE R.
How far have you gone with rebuilding and reconciling because few days ago when President Jonathan Goodluck came to present the 2013 Budget to the National Assembly, the opposition came from within the party. Is your reconciliation working?
The situation is not as many are meant to believe. Immediately they mentioned about the PDP Chairman that I was part of the delegation in the National Assembly, the whole House got up. I told you that we have started the process. They believe in me and that reconciliation has started. It’s really a big job for me. So that shows the extent they believe in me and are ready for the process too.
Let me take you on education, there is a lot of brain drain. What is the policy of the party to stop this problem. It looks like those our colleagues who study abroad come back and get the best job. You know, a gold medallist from the Olympics is not a toddler? So you have to bring him up. Train him and then he goes back. You must train him towards winning that gold medal. This is what i am doing now. It’s a process, you can see we are talking about diaspora, these are the people you call brain drain. Who went somewhere, did well and now we are asking them to come back. You know what I have also said to every Nigerian who believes in PDP or whatever. I have told them to come back..We now have a programme and this umbrella is big enough to accommodate all of us.
Come under the umbrella. The party is supreme. Let us build a very strong institution. Its not a question of an individual. Its not about Bamanga Tukur or whoever comes there, its not about Jonathan. Is what we all need to do,what we believe in. Build an institution, a culture, build the capacity.So for now it is a process and we are working on it. Believe me it is working
The major problem we have is power. Yo u are an industrialist of repute and Nigeria cannot produce enough Power. The capacity we have can only generate 6,000 MW and Lagos State alone can take that and still want more. Now why are we stuttering between 4000MW to 4300MW. Are you satisfied with the road map?
It is noT question of satisfaction.Even in countries where you believe they have got sufficient power, they are still increasing. Because they are still developing. They are not standstill. Look at our population of about 160 souls today or more. Now, how do you really justify that. Our dams are not producing enough, our infrastructure is not sufficient, there’s not enough job and funds to do that is not sufficient. So we need to now have a plan, a strategic plan. I have given them 12 months. We will take up all these things you are talking about. I have given them the Triple R and the Triple E. Let me give them the TRIPLE D.
Here we are talking about Boko Haram, people are killing themselves. How do you talk with somebody who says he wants to kill himself? He says he wants to die. The only thing you can threaten a human being is death. But he says he wants to die. He wired not only himself, he wants to grab you and die with you. Now you need to create a defence first. Create defence to strengthen our security. You create dialogue, and then you create diplomacy. So these are the three Ds. Defence, dialogue and diplomacy. These are three major planks I have given to my people. I have told my people we have to work on these 3Ds.
And it was accepted?
Of course they are implementing it. Then what are the consequences? I told them, if you do that, If you reconcile you get harmony, you get peace. If you get peace you get security. If you get security, you get investment, so you continue with getting your energy, your education.
How did the President take the 12-point agenda?
Well, we are on the same page with Mr President because as the chairman of the party, you must be on the same page with the President because after all, it is the party that put Mr President there.
President is a Jockey, the party is the horse. When that horse is strong it will win the race. Whoever is put on the horse will win the race. So I have to be on the same position with him..
Is this horse strong enough to allow, Local Councils autonomy in the country where the State Governments don’t give them autonomy to to operate?
I have told you that to rebuild that horse, to strengthen it, will be based on equity and justice, that means you give the horse the right composition of what it will take, that is justice. Not imposition. If you do all these things that you are talking about, it bothers me and I have examined it. I call it Afrocracy. Because all of us now should answer our father’s name... Africa should be our Africa, so I call that Afrocracy. It is a form of democracy that will take our people to their right destination. we have already started now. We are now having e-passport. We are not Nigerian by passport. We are ECOWAS people. There are Europeans; they are not German or French people. They are Europeans....they have Europe and we must have Africa. Let us now answer our fathers name and own Africa. This is what I am telling you younger people. Then we will go and take our rightful place in Africa. But Charity begins at home.
Nigeria should lead Africa. Nigeria should have that coveted seat of the United Nations Security Council. We deserve it. We have the capacity to do it. Let us build ourselves well.
You are now insisting that 2015 will be based on performance. How do you marry that with the internal democratic process?
You see now, even Mr. President himself tells you it is performance based. He has entered into a performance bond with his Ministers. Have you ever had it before? Because we insist on performance. The President gives you a job to do , and if you don’t perform you don’t expect to remain as a minister, and the Minister went round signing bonds with the parastatals and if you don’t perform you won’t be there. So it is a kind of programme under the PDP to really impact on the lowest level of our society. Let them feel the government from homes to villages, to wards, to local governments to state .
Was Barth Nnaji a victim of this performance review?
I cannot comment on that because it was an individual affair. I believe now that you do see improvement. I don’t know whether the expectation is the expectation of the level of what is expected. I don’t know I don’t know, may be..it is not based on performance. But you never know . This is bureaucracy.
What is your position on the clamour for the establishment of state police?
Have you heard what is called state police before?But there was what is called Dogari before . What did they do with them?, they dismantled them. You see what you need to do is to train and retrain your police, give them capacity. Put them where they should be . If you do that belive me they wil perform. It is not because they are state police or federal police. Which can be more local than the vigilante. They were there when four of our boys were murdered. Is it the uniform that made them the police? Is it not human beings. What is the meaning of vigilante? Is it not to complementary security.
We don’t need local Police. What we need to do, is train our police, give them the capacity and tell them the kind of job they will do. They will perfom.How many police are trained now? And how is the recruitment done. What are the background checks there in place? When you bring them, did you give them there kits? Did you give them what they should have. Do you continuously retrain them?
But that is a question for your party and the Government in power?
Absolutely, but you can’t stop people from asking. But if you ask me it is not the issue of the state . After the state police now, the Local Councils will come and say we also need local government Police , that they are not satisfied with the state police. Why not we don’t trust the state Police? People instead of becoming national champion, they become local champion. How can you be a Nigerian and yet you are a regionalist? How can you be a Nigerian and then you segregate yourself into Hausa , Igbo, Yoruba and then... it is nonsense. We should tell them that you are an African, black person.
You happened to be born in Nigeria. It is not your own making whether you are born Ibo or Hausa. Now you come and fight yourself because you are speaking different language from the other neighbour. It is not your own making . You forget that in your past National Anthem, they tell you that ‘low tribes and tongue may differ in brotherhood we stand. Take that one and forget about regional or state police. It is all nonsense. It is just a hotcake for people who want to create argument. You can argue fine..
As the National Chairman of the PDP, what are you assuring Nigerians in reduction of unemployment, poor medicare amongst others?
I want to tell Nigerians, let us believe in ourselves. When you go to America, believe me most of the time you find out that Nigerian doctors are the specialists there. Go and find out. Some are there now going to Ghana.
So what am saying is that we should believe in ourselves and strive to do the best. Let us improve on our facilities. If we can build all these edifices’, can’t we also build hospitals that we can be proud of? Cant we have most of the doctors who are now there? They are the ones even the white people are using. It’s an environment issue. Create a better environment. PDP under that umbrella, wants to create , i can assure you a conducive environment . I can assure you PDP will do that . Give them energy security, give them peace don’t believe Nigeria needs State Police.