Is two years enough to assess a government that is trying to clean the rot created by sisxteen years of misrule? Chief Ray Ugba Morphy, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, in an interview with Senator Iroegbu, said no. He also spoke on his party’s struggles to fulfil the promises made to Nigerians. Excerpts:
Two years into governance, has APC been implementing its promises?
I will start in a very simple way. We are a people who often forget our history. We tend to forget the recent history that all of us just experienced. Two years ago, we publicly devised a new style with some security measures and our hearts in our mouth. A clear case is the issue of Boko Haram terrorism which almost hold the nation to ransom. The terrorists even held sway in the nation’s capital, Abuja. Remember the bomb blasts at the Banex Plaza, United Nations building, and other places? These are things that happened which are now history as we do not have them anymore. So I can use that to illustrate to you that certainly no matter how we want to deny the facts on the ground, the threat to the ordinary citizens on the streets has reduced to the barest minimum; the issue of Boko Haram has abated.
Another issue being tackled aggressively is the corruption and the usurpation of the goodwill of the people by some people in high places. Mind you, there has never been a time when we said all the rots would be gone in two years. It is not a matter of APC promised this and that, yet they have not fulfilled all. Let us understand the human process of doing things. The truth is that Nigeria was in far worst state than most people on the street could understand. We had deficit financing, we were running a high economic budget with very low output and capital expenditure, most of the projects we had under the budget for the last few years were never funded and we all know that. There was so much rot in the system. My point is that, the country was so bad that if you want to correct it, it would take a little bit of time to get the system processed. That is my view regarding the ability of the current administration at the federal level to put things the way they ought to be kept.
I can also tell you today that until recently, most roads in my state were not motorable. Anybody who knew Cross Rivers will know that for me to drive from Ogoja to Calabar, I had to go to Ebonyi State first before turning back, but now the road that everybody complained about has been contracted to Julius Berger and work is in progress. They are building a completely new road.
From what we are seeing today, it’s like your party has become an opposition to itself. What is your take?
Look at the evolution of APC as a party, how did APC start? They got together with elements of ACN, CPC, APGA, DPP and PDP who now arranged themselves as an option to the PDP. They have not yet bonded and synchronised to a point where they have same mission and vision, but we will get there. You know politics is a game of interest. The truth of the matter is that what you see is the evolution of all the process of building a system and that is natural. Muhammadu Buhari, the president is not a young man anymore, so when you embark on such brilliant campaigns and schedules, there is nobody that will not come out from such a campaign trip tired, even younger people like us let alone those who are in their 70s.
As much as you like to paint the scenario of the state of things being very bad, there were specific campaign promises they made and they gave time laps as to that. Also, another thing you must bear in mind is that we don’t have all the available information before we came into the government. I have been around the corridors of power for some time now, one thing that is hard to get is information. There are some things you do not give out by law. That is why we have the Official Secret Act. So, there is no way the APC as a party, could have had access to certain information about the government until it took over government. When you actually talk about deceit, talk about my state where the PDP was in power as state government and there is a PDP to PDP transition and the PDP governor has not been able to achieve one of the promises he made. You can call that deceit because he had access to the system before assumption of office.
In essence, you are indirectly agreeing that APC ran its campaigns on information they were not sure of?
You go and find out. The information by the Federal Government of Nigeria which was given out to the people was false. One of the ministers of the PDP government said that some of the statistics that were being pushed out by the government were also false. So if the last government gave you scooped statistics about the economy, power output, investments in power, infrastructure, what do you do?
APC knew what it was getting into and still made bogus promises. It said before 2019, the country would have 19,000 megawatts. They promised to rescue Chibok girls within weeks. They promised to feed school children. Is it that they said those things to win election?
No. APC operates in the principle of “welfarism”, which is a system where you put the welfare of the people first and always. When you have an ideology that is tended towards a welfarist state; you will work towards such things as social security. To project social security under a progressive umbrella is certainly that which qualifies. The fact that they were not in government could not have given them the kind of authentic data that was required for them to understand as much as they perceived.
Is there any unique challenge Nigeria is currently facing given the scenario you have painted which did not exist before now?
My position is very simple; the longer the problem, the more the work needed to solve it. In psychology, you do not treat somebody who ran mad yesterday the same way you treat a person that has been mad for ten years. The fact remains that if you are given a story, you must make an effort to go into the structures. In all these years, the political elites gave lip services to the challenges of our nation. If you look at the money that was spent by the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government on power, it ought to have given us steady power, but look at where we are today.
How come we have a country where nothing works? It is because of the mindset of the political elites? Other places of the world were built by people and not God. Those places are more hostile than what we have; yet, we will take our money and spend over there where people have worked to develop their country. Isn’t it ironic that our former governors and other elites are today investing in those countries?
Don’t you think the same trend has continued under the APC-led government?
What is the moral climate of this country? The moral climate of our country today is around 2 when weighed in the scale of 1-10. This is because there is this wealth acquisition syndrome that can be found at every level of our society and that drives crime. Ou biggest challenge in this country is crime. I am not talking about state crime, but crimes of individuals. We hear of kidnapping, robbery, and rapes among others. That is not a function of government as it were; it is the evolution of the consciousness. We have transited from a culture that has values to a culture that has no values. There is no country in the world where they have this unbridled display of negative images. Do you know that the target of alcohol is an intentional target of this country, where every brand of alcohol is being manufactured by large companies and get them cheaper than you can get them in the UK and America, the countries of origin? But the truth is that, the elites do not even understand it and unfortunately they never allow those who know what is going on to face these challenges. We have a real problem and war in the mind is more devastating than shooting guns. Nigerian politics is basically not ideological. If you look at the APC government in one state and PDP government in another state, you cannot differentiate their programs. We must try to put the agenda of ideological thinking so that we can understand some of the issues that we face.
Now about the health of the Mr. President, where do you stand?
First, illness is a ‘human right’. Every human being has the right to be ill. You can not preclude it. Second, the Nigerian presidency is the most powerful in the world. The Nigerian presidency is also one of the largest presidencies. The fact is that illness is a human right and that Mr. President is not in the best of health at this point in time is obvious, but the doctors have not declared him unfit for office. The process of declaring him not fit for office has not even commenced. All I am saying is that, he is a child of the constitution. People are saying he ought to have resigned. My personal take on this is that I am not in the position to make a call on that because I do not know the real state of his health and even if I can conjecture, I am not a doctor. Those in charge of the constitution, vested with the power, authority and processes who are in government should know what to do.
Chief Bisi Akande has expressly pointed out that the health of the president is having serious effects on the state of the nation. Do you agree with that?
One, Chief Akande is a nobody in this matter, just like me. If Chief Akande is a layman in terms of health matters, then he is not in a position to determine the president’s capacity. Anybody who is ill will affect people around him, and will underperform for the period of the illness. The job of being a president is a chronic job and Nigerians voted for Mr. President despite his illness. These are some of the possible fallouts of doing the job and we should not punish him for becoming ill from time to time. My father was ill for a while before he died and I did not send him out of the house. I did not drive him away to stop being a member of my family. My mother was in a comma before she died and I did not ask her to stop being our mother because it is a human feeling and I have not seen any ministry that has shut down because the president did not go to work. I have not seen any part of the presidency that is not operational. When the constitutional processes declare him to leave this office, he will leave. If those who know the processes and have called the doctors and now know what is wrong, they should decide it. Right now, I do not have the power neither do you. So I cannot conjuncture as a citizen. Besides, they are the ones telling us that the man is well. I have written somewhere and said that the issue of Mr. President’s health has been handled clearly. A man who is working for us is ill and we should be told the truth. The simple truth is that anybody can be ill, but the process has not been invoked. The presidency is a child of the constitution. The constitution has set processes with which a man in that office can be declared unfit. The people who should do it are officers who have access to his health and they are the ones telling you that this sickness is not the way people think it is.
Back to party politics, what are your plans for 2019?
First, my political ambition is to ensure that the politics of Nigeria is stable. That is my ambition, hope and aspiration. Whatever I can do, whatever office I can take, by the grace of God, will be determined by time, and certainly I am up for it. My state, Cross River has deteriorated in recent time from the most peaceful state in the country to the terror state in Nigeria. The situation today is that some of us are even scared. I am interested in our state returning to what it used to be both as a tourism destination and as a peaceful place. The governorship of my state is vested in northern senatorial district right now and that’s where I come from. Governor Ben Ayade is doing a first term of our normal eight year rotational turn and he is in PDP. He is not doing well. We in the APC will vie for that office. We are not going to let the PDP keep it and when we vie for that office, it will be from the north, my senatorial district. Therefore, if my people consider me worthy to be the arrowhead or the spearhead the change, why not? I am all for it. Right now, the incumbent governor is not doing well. In fact, we believe that Calabar and Cross River have deteriorated in the past few years and anybody who is honest will accept that.
I have not seen any ministry that has shut down because the president did not go to work. I have not seen any part of the Presidency that is not operational. When the constitutional processes declare him to leave the office, he will leave.