‘APC Has Kept Its Promises to Nigerians’

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In this interviews with the spokesmen of the ruling All Progressive Congress, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, and that of the main of opposition party, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye (of the Ahmed Markarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party), Onyebuchi Ezeigbo sought their views on the two years of APC government. Excerpts:

Appraisal of two years of APC government
I think that if we look more closely, paying more attention to where we are coming from and where we were two years ago, you will see that we have more than sufficient good reasons to celebrate. There was a reason that Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for APC a little over two years ago. There was a reason that for the first time in our history, Nigerians rejected a sitting government and those reasons were quite compelling and those were the reasons that justified APC’s existence in government today at the federal level and in the various states. I like to say that there were three things that President Buhari promised as we went round the country campaigning. One was that he promised to fight corruption. Secondly, he said he would fight insecurity especially as it relates to Boko Haram and thirdly, he said he would create employment opportunity for the young people. Let us take the issue of Boko Haram. I have said it repeatedly that we tend to forget one fundamental fact which was that at the time we were preparing for election in 2015, more than 50,000 square kilometers of Nigeria territory were physically occupied by Boko Haram, where they declared a caliphate and planted their flag. I remember that in trying to make sense of it, he said the area occupied by Boko Haram was the size of Belgium. Two years down the line, what is the size of Nigeria territory occupied by Boko Haram? Zero, including the dreaded Sambisa forest. For us, this is a remarkable achievement and we believe that in that respect, President Buhari and the government of APC have justified the purpose of coming to power. Yes, many of the Chibok girls are still in captivity, but some of them have been recovered and more are still being recovered. For the parent of those recovered, you cannot tell them there is no reason to celebrate. For those who had to abandon their families and homes two years ago because of the menace of Boko Haram and has returned home today, you cannot tell them that there is nothing to celebrate.

Let us take the issue of corruption. We must not forget that before APC came into power two years ago, we knew what was going on. We knew that people were stealing this country dry, but it was almost like it had been accepted as if it was normal. People were stealing as if it was an entitlement. But what do you find happening today? You listen to the radio, watch the television, read the newspapers, Nigerians are talking about corruption everyday. It means that as a nation, there is nothing in our DNA that accept corruption. It means that we are telling the world that as a country, we don’t want corruption and that is why we are having that conversation. You hear people talking about whistleblowers, people talk about huge amount of money being recovered, people being dragged before the court, former governors being remanded in prison custody for corrupt practices, you hear about former ministers being held in detention and prison for corruption. These are things that were almost impossible two years ago. The challenges are still there, but this is the progress we have made in two years.

For us, we would also like to argue that there is the tendency to look at the APC from the perspective of the federal government. But the performance of the APC as a party is the aggregate of the performance of our 24 state governments. You go to each of our 24 states and you will find out from the people the progress that has been made in two years in those respective states. So, when you want to assess whether APC has delivered or has justified our being in existence, then you have to look at the totality of the federal, government and the 24 states that is being governed by the APC. So, we believe that we have a lot of reasons to celebrate. The reality which we have acknowledged is that the economic recession has created difficulty and those hardship still exist and nobody has ever denied that reality. We believe that in spite of this reality as a result of the hardship, we have enough reasons to celebrate two years as a government.

On hunger and hardship
I don’t think that what the government promise was that at the end of two years, it would have wiped out hunger from Nigeria. What the government promised is what I have told you. Since when have we been hearing the report that 70 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line. It is a United Nations report and that statistics is not coming up today. The issue of poverty is associated with the issue of hunger and other kinds of challenges. So, to now begin to blame a government that has been in government for two years for a problem that has existed for decades is slightly unfair. I think that we should focus on what the government has promised to do and whether they are doing those things or not.

Anti-graft war and low number of convictions
What do you want the APC government to do? A few days ago, the DSS said Ifeanyi Uba did something with petrol and that he ought to be punished with death sentence. Have you seen the reaction that followed that? People are asking whether DSS wants to be arresting people and passing death sentence on them? So, it is the same thing. No matter how keen we are, we have to ask ourselves as a country, do we want to be a country of law or a society of chaos. If we say let us arrest people as they are accused of corruption and lock them up, how do you know when you arrest someone that is innocent? The principle of justice says that it is better for nine guilty people to go unpunished than one innocent person to be punished. There are provisions under our laws that say an individual is innocent until he has been proven guilty. That process has to be exhausted. No matter how eager we are to punish people, they must go through that process as long as that is the provisions of the law. If APC government start catching people like it happened in 1984, the same Nigerians will ask, is this democracy? Like I told you, there is no alternative to the rule of law. No matter how much we are pressured to catch thieves, if you use an unlawful means to fight unlawful act, then you have not solved any problem. Yes it is slow and we want to see more convictions, we also need to ensure that our institutions develop more capacity to prosecute and investigate. But ultimately, we have to ensure that justice is done to everyone that is accused of one thing or the other.

Fulfillment of promises
Let us understand one thing. A party manifesto represent the philosophy of the party. In other words, you cannot have a document called the manifesto of the party and after four years, you say they have implemented this document. The manifesto is an articulation of what the party believe that it wants to do with power if it gets to power. Now, when you form a government, when you have a candidate on the platform of that party, that government derives its programme from that manifesto. When he finishes his first years and wants to contest another election, he would say, I am satisfied with what I have been able to do in the area of security and corruption. The next four years, if you vote for me again, these will be my new sets of priorities which will also be derived from the manifesto. So when he finishes his tenure, another government will come and look at that same manifesto and derive its own agenda. President Jonathan had his own transformation agenda, Yar’Adua had his seven point agenda. The manifesto of a party is not the same thing with the programme of government, but the programme of government is a derivation from the manifesto of the party. But be that as it may, what we should hold President Buhari’s government accountable for are those things that are derived from the manifesto which he promised that he was going to do and that is where we started this conversation from. So, as far as we are concerned, he has done very well in respect of those things he promised to do. So, you have to go round Nigeria and ask yourself, is there any government in this country that is doing something contrary to what the manifesto of the APC promised the people? You can measure this, to say this has done very well. But whether they have done well in consonance with the manifesto of the APC, I will say yes.