The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Makarfi tuesday faced off in a debate, during which the leaders of the two main political parties in the country blamed each other’s parties for Nigeria’s economic woes.
Speaking yesterday during a live debate on Arise Television’s THISDAY Live programme anchored by Jeff Koinange, the two rival politicians also disagreed on the efforts of the APC-led administration to revamp the economy.
Oyegun blamed Nigeria’s present economic woes on the country’s over-dependence on crude oil and the failure of the PDP-led administration to save money, stressing that even the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was part of that administration, had warned the government to save.
But Makarfi attributed the economy hardship faced by Nigerians to the internal squabbles in the APC, which he said shattered the Nigerian economy as soon as the party came to power.
Makarfi also described the alleged calls on acting President Yemi Osinbajo to resign from office as unconstitutional and unnecessary.
The former Kaduna State governor also stated that a majority of the APC members, who are blaming PDP for Nigeria’s economic crisis, were PDP members who decamped to APC to win elections on the basis of sentiments.
He likened it to the victory of President Donald Trump whom he said won the U.S. presidential election on sentiments.
According to him, only three governors in the 19 states of the north were not originally from the PDP.
While Makarfi insisted that Nigerians are disappointed in the APC-led government, Oyegun argued that the administration was rebuilding the agriculture and solid minerals sectors, as well as creating employment opportunities and boosting infrastructure, particularly power supply.
Oyegun said Nigerians are not disappointed, insisting that PDP was doing what they are doing as the opposition party.
According to him, the present agony in the land started before APC took over power from the PDP.
He pointed out that even Makarfi acknowledged that the economic problems started before APC took over power and blamed the economic woes on Nigeria’s mono-economy and the failure of previous administrations to save money.
“We have to manage the economy. Today, the challenge is the collapse of that mono-economy; the challenge that Buhari government is facing – the challenge the APC government is facing is to build a strong economy; to go back to agriculture and solid minerals,” Oyegun said.
Speaking on Monday’s anti-government protests in Abuja, Lagos and other cities, Oyegun argued that Nigeria was not engulfed in a crisis, adding that “demonstrations are okay” for people to “ventilate their grievances”, provided they are not hijacked by other forces.
“Nigeria is not in crisis mode. Demonstrations are okay. People are hungry. You cannot beat a child and tell the child not to cry. People are hungry. Demonstrations are okay if they want to ventilate, provided they are not exploited,” Oyegun said.
“We are rebuilding this nation. We are rebuilding a shattered economy and agriculture is beginning to be significant. During Christmas, suddenly there were bags of local rice all over the nation. We celebrated Christmas with bags of beautiful Nigerian rice.
“As a matter of fact, I never knew until last Christmas that we have beautiful rice in Nigeria.
“Electricity is going up and gas supply is rising but the crisis in the Niger Delta is affecting gas supply,” Oyegun added.
“The situation we are in today did not start today. We are a mono- economy dependent on oil. Even Okonjo-Iweala, who was part of the government, warned us repeatedly to save but was ignored.
“The most important thing is that dependence on oil must stop. We must build our agriculture, which we are doing; we must build our solid minerals base, which we are doing; we must build our infrastructure, particularly power, which we are doing,” Oyegun said.
Oyegun used the opportunity to thank Nigerians, who had come to his office physically and those who sent messages of solidarity with the president, as well as those who had offered prayers, stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari would come back fully energised to assume office.
In response, Makarfi admitted that some of the problems reared their head before APC took over, but maintained that on assumption of office, the new administration failed to do what it was supposed to do.
“People voted us out of office believing that APC will deal with the issues but instead of dealing with the issues, it was more of a blame game. That is not moving this country forward,” Makarfi said.
He said from his wealth of experience, he had expected the APC to carry all Nigerians along but that was not done.
Makarfi stated that the APC came into power with members quarreling among themselves and thus collapsed the economy.
He also dismissed the claim by Oyegun that the APC-led government was rebuilding agriculture, solid minerals and creating employment opportunities.
“That is not what is happening now. If that is what is happening, Nigerians would not be complaining. We should not have a divided house, a divided house will not stand,” Makarfi said.
“I think the coming together of APC was that of strange bed fellows. So, they seemed not to be prepared for governance; they walked into office quarrelling among themselves and before you know it, things got out of hand.
“Even if you have a brand new car and you are not careful how you drive, you will lose control and it will crash,” Makarfi said.
Makarfi stated that PDP members just decamped to APC to win elections because of sentiments, adding that most of the National Assembly members are from the former ruling party.
“Most of them came from the PDP to win elections because of sentiments, just the way Trump won the U.S. presidential election because of sentiments.
“Just because of sentiments, they ran to APC. In the north, I can tell you that only three governors are not from the PDP. But each time they open their mouths, they will say PDP this and PDP that,” Makarfi said.
On calls by Oyegun to Nigerians leaders to join the APC, Makarfi argued that not all Nigerians must belong to APC before they work together for the national interest.
He however agreed with Oyegun that the vice-president was capable, otherwise Buhari would not have picked him as his running mate.
“Personally, he (Osinbajo) is capable. If he was not capable, the president would not have picked him as his running mate.
“I don’t want us to politicise the situation between the president and the vice-president. I want to agree with my friend that when we have a national crisis, we should come together.
“But that does not mean that we should form one party. What that means is that people should not go into APC. You can have the opposition and the party in government and address things in the national interest.
“Everybody should have his or her political persuasion. When elections come, we go to the electorate and tell it the differences between the two sides and let the people choose,” Makarfi said.
Makarfi also described the alleged calls for Osinbajo to resign as unconstitutional and unnecessary.
“That is not necessary; that is not constitutional. We are an opposition party but we are a sensible opposition party. We wish the president well. We don’t have any ill feeling towards him.
“We may disagree with his policies and the policies of his party but we will never wish our president dead,” he added.
“With respect to the APC, there seems to be different interests lording it over one another. I believe that as acting president, he (Osinbajo) has the authority to run the administration until the president fully assumes duty. There should be no excuses,” Makarfi said.