A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, an Egba chief, close ally of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and erstwhile National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Bode Mustapha, has warned of the danger of setting President Muhammadu Buhari against Senator Bola Tinubu. He spoke to Femi Ogbonnikan on other pertinent national issues. Excerpts:
Don’t you think that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is too slow to improving the lots of the citizenry?
As at today, we have N3 trillion in the TSA. In the last 16 years, before the APC government came, does anybody even know how the budget of this nation was being funded? The answer is no! It was all based on procrastinations. Today, we know we now have N3 trillion and we now know exactly how much we need to add to be able to have a balanced budget. Now, to me, slow and steady wins the race.
In the past, did anybody even know how much we were earning from crude oil? Where was the money going? Where was it being paid? Everybody was helping himself, dipping his or her hands in the till. Today, we have a structured system that at the snap of the fingers, the President can know through the Central Bank, how much we have as a country. It wasn’t the case in the past.
You can’t undo all that went wrong in 16 years in a year. My appeal is for Nigerians to still remain patient and to see the good that is coming out of what is being done at this point in time.
The opposition has been saying perhaps President Buhari doesn’t have an economic blueprint
The last administration practically refused to hand over till the last minute. How can you have an economic blueprint when you don’t even know what is in the till? Even if he has an economic blueprint, how can you work with an economic blueprint in a situation, where so much money was squandered and everybody was taking his own share?
Imagine how much people were pocketing without doing anything. So, how can you plan when you do not have facts? At any time that President Buhari is to hand over to anybody, he can say as at today in the Treasury Single Account (TSA), we have so much. So, whoever is coming can plan, but President Buhari didn’t have such an opportunity and we all have to realise that.
So, it is a question of time. One is a function of the other. Where you do not have all the facts before you, you cannot have an economic blueprint. That is what I am trying to say.
The recent arrests and trials of past public office holders, especially those connected with the arms purchase deal has been viewed by the opposition as a game of selective witch-hunting. What is your take on that?
That is total rubbish! Retired Brigadier-General Jatau Musa is a very close ally of the President. What has happened? He accepted he collected N170 million and he has refunded N100 million and he made a pledge to refund the remaining balance of N70 million. So, what is selective in that? When you talk of selective, is it true that they did what they did? That’s the first question. Please, don’t mix the message with the messenger.
People were collecting money meant for purchase of arms and ammunition to go and fight Boko Haram while people were being internally displaced, moved away from their homes, from their farms, people were killed, people were kidnapped, women were molested, were raped and some people could sleep. Soldiers who were sent to the war front without being adequately equipped were being killed like chickens and people can sleep.
Also, Nigerians have been complaining that rather than globetrot, President Buhari should sit down at home and address the problems facing this country. Do you agree?
Is it not achieving results? First of all, when he came onboard, he was travelling to our neighbouring countries so that we could have joint security network to face Boko Haram, which at a point, got affiliated to Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS). Now, getting affiliated to ISIS, if not nipped in the bud, the war can consume the whole of this country.
We have seen conventional war, which was Biafran war and which we pray never to see again. We don’t want a situation of the IRA in this country. Now, he has been busy doing that. He has gone to the United Arab Emirates to sign agreement on repatriation of looted funds, seizure of funds, tripartite or bilateral relationship and based on that people are now getting jittery. I am sure that by the time all these monies are brought back into the country, it would revamp the economy.
What ex-president Obasanjo did for the first two – three years in office was to launder Nigeria’s image. He was practically his own Minister for Foreign Affairs. That is what President Buhari is doing indirectly at this point in time, because our image has been badly battered. No doubt about it.
The recent signing of a military tie with the Arab world in the fight against ISIS insurgency has been interpreted to mean that President Buhari has taken the country to join the Organisation of Islamic Countries, thereby exposing Nigeria to external threats of the insurgents. Isn’t that correct?
I don’t think so. You see, when you have a challenge that is spreading, for example, if you in Community Development Areas in a town or in a state that are facing the same problem and their leaders come together to address it jointly say, we want to join forces together to face this problem, that does not make Nigeria an Islamic state.
I am a Muslim and I don’t see it happening. I will never support Nigeria becoming an Islamic state. And I don’t think Mr. President has that intention. It is a way of coming together with people, who have the same problems, to share intelligence and to come together to face that challenge.
What’s your take on diversification given the slope in the price of oil in the international market?
If you look at the economic summit that has just been concluded, a lot of emphasis was made on these thematic areas, agriculture and others. Before oil, Western region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, we relied on cocoa. We had our own Agent-General in the United Kingdom. Cocoa House was built with Cocoa money. There was no reliance on oil, because there was no oil. There was the groundnut pyramid in Kano. There was coal in Nkalagu, in the Eastern region.
We threw all these things to the dustbin because of the emergence of oil. Now, we will have to go back to the drawing board. Here in Ogun State, I can tell you for free that there is load of bitumen. I can tell you for free that there are solid minerals like gold, palladium, platinum and so on in large quantities in Ogun State. I know it. I am into mining business. So, this is not a story.
But what is the government doing to develop the mining sector? That’s the question. How do you support the people who are in the mining business positively? For example, we are talking of one barrel of oil at even $100, whereas we are talking of one ounce of gold of 14 grammes at $1,200. So, why should our country not shift its emphasis away from oil and go and pump more money into the mining sector? Pump more money and give incentives to those people, who are in the mining sector, so that they can also attract the Rio Tinto of this world and several other investors in the mining business.
As a member of the APC, does your party appreciate the essence of internal democracy?
I do not know of anything called groups within the party. The party is one indivisible entity. Credit must be given where credit must be given. You can’t take away the national leadership of this party from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. You cannot. You can say what you like. He is the person God has endowed with the dexterity to put together what is called APC today. You can’t take it away from him.
Unfortunately, in politics, once a government is formed, people try to pit one person against the other, and I am sure and I am very sure that President Buhari would not allow anybody to pit him against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, because for crying out loud, but for the work that this gentleman did, maybe we would be having N5 million to $1 because without putting together this strong opposition, which he single-handedly spare-headed, there would have been another PDP government and all these rots would have been swept under the carpet and our currency would have become torn-money. It would have been worse than Zimbabwe.
So, all I would appeal is that the president should not allow anybody to pitch him against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who we all know did a ‘yeoman’s job’, which the president himself recognises, in putting together this opposition. There are a lot of pocket Lords in states, who try to play God in their states and who try to pitch President Buhari against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The President should not allow that to happen, because like they say in Yorubaland, “omi l’ama kan ki a to kan yanrin ” (it is the water that we will see first before the sharp sand).
People should stop all these old situations – this was a former ANPP and this was former CPC. If ANPP could do it alone when President Buhari ran for office, they would have won the elections and the presidency. If CPC could do it alone, they would have won the elections and they would have won the presidency for President Buhari.
Now, it is the time that we have an APC and people are drawing a wedge between the President and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu but without what this man (Tinubu) started, like a joke, there would be no APC today and probably some of us would have travelled out to go and work overseas.
All I would appeal is that the president should not allow anybody to pitch him against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who we all know did a ‘yeoman’s job’, which the president himself recognises, in putting together this opposition. There are a lot of pocket Lords in states, who try to play God in their states and who try to pitch President Buhari against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The President should not allow that to happen