The National Publicity Secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Bishop Emman Isong, is of the opinion that restructuring is the antidote to the growing violence, division and hate across the country. He spoke to select journalists. Bassey Inyang was there and presents the excerpts:
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s led-APC government in the last two years?
In any case, you and I know that the Buhari-led government has done very badly and very poorly, almost to the point of failure in the area of the economy.
Nigerians voted for a change, to change their status, to enhance their wellbeing; for their empowerment. But today, Nigerians are hungry, and angry. There is unemployment; there is no investment in critical sectors including power, energy, education, agriculture, industrialization, and infrastructures.
These are areas that could have turned around the life of Nigerians. Nigerians today cannot afford the most essential things of life including food, water and light.
It is no more a secret both in public and private domain. Even the APC chieftains have agreed that this government is the worst government in economic formulas.
It has not been able to put food on the table of ordinary Nigerians. They have goofed, stumbled and fallen in the area of cash circulation, fiscal policies, banking regulations and basic commercial laws.
They have failed woefully in the area of commerce. I think the question answered itself even before I answered. You can subject what I just said to public debate and tell them to vote, and you will see that it would be the same result. Everyone is feeling the pains of the stringent and almost lack of economic policy. It has never been like this. We are lacking good hands; intelligent, experienced men around the president to advise him economically for Nigeria to come out of recession, which has ravaged every sector of the economy. Even the president’s kinsmen are complaining. Even the president himself confessed that things were tough and Nigerians were hungry. I believe that what this government was politically prepared to take over government but they were not economically armed to manage government. Winning an election is different from managing an economy and this is a big lesson for future governments. To win an election and form a government is not tantamount to having key players that can drive the economy.
He (Buhari) may have good intentions, but wrong approach – I mean the way to go about it. Just having a good heart is not enough for Mr. President. Just being a good man, just being nice, and wishing Nigeria well will not translate to economic development. The team has not been able to put resources together to bring Nigeria out of the woods.
However, he has done very well in some areas. For instance he has done well in fighting corruption with a lot of question marks; he has done well in fighting terrorism and insurgency, even though there is still much to be done.
The release of some Chibok girls is also a boost. Again, in the area of transparency of information in a democracy, he has done well. This is evident in the way he hands over to his deputy whenever he was going abroad for medical attention.
But APC leadership said two years was not enough to assess Buhari considering the enormity of problems his administration inherited?
Two years is too much to assess any serious minded government. Democratic governments all over the world are assessed within 100 days in office. Personally, I hate to assess a government because the assessment of a government should not be an individual thing but a collective decision. Two years is half way through, and if you didn’t do well in the first two years and you’re asking for another two years, what is the guarantee that you will achieve any result? I am sure they were not ready for governance other than fighting PDP out of office, else they would have had their blue print ready, even before the election. But as for the problems, they knew before they told Nigerians they would change the country. After all some of the key players in the government were in PDP, and were part of the rot.
APC has even opened its doors to these same PDP politicians to come over and continue the enjoyment. So, what are they talking about? Please let them get down to work, and stop talking from both sides of their mouths.
The PDP alleged that the fight against corruption is one-sided and that it was being used to fight perceived political opponents.
I think the intention of this government is to fight corruption without looking at the colour, tribe, party or religion. But, in fighting corruption, it is as if you are walking on a dreaded ground. Those alleged to be corrupt would always fight back. But government has to be upright in this fight because all eyes are on the agencies fighting this cankerworm to see if they are doing the right things. That leads us to the question; are the president’s men and those who defected from the alleged corrupt PDP to APC also being investigated? From many perspectives, it seems that those defecting to APC or close to ‘Baba’ have some sort of immunity. And that is too bad for us.
This brings us to the issue of the Acting EFCC Chairman, Magu, whom the Senate has not cleared, and he is still in office. The president cleared Magu of corruption. You cannot be the one to judge in your own matter. It is absolutely wrong. The president cannot exonerate his principal officers of corruption; he does not have that power. The Buhari-led government must show integrity in the fight against corruption, it must allow the law to take its course no matter whose ox is gored. You cannot hold the yam and the knife- this is the Nigeria we are dreaming of and this is why we voted for Mr. President.
I don’t want to see Mr. President as somebody that is already biased or one sided in the corruption war by shielding members of his immediate political family or thinking that they can escape with this kind of issue. So, if I were him I would have told Magu to quit.
You have always been an advocate of restructuring and now we have different ethnic nationalities agitating for restructuring and implementation of the 2014 confab report. Do you subscribe to the implementation of the report?
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has sent a message to Buhari that he should implement the 2014 national confab report. I think that the report clearly stood for restructuring. Most of the national issues we are debating now were answered at the confab. The Biafra case will die if you implement the report. Niger Delta crisis would die, and even the Boko Haram will end if you implement that report. Even the Yoruba people, their eyes are on that report. Call any governor now that you want to see him, the answer would be that he is in Abuja. All the governors spend their time in Abuja. What are they doing in Abuja? Pursuing their allocation, national wealth, following the money? All local government chairmen are not in the local government, they are in the state capital. I advise the present administration to heed the advice of prominent Nigerians who have been clamouring for the implementation of the report. It would reduce tension in the land.
The northern delegates who were in the confab, and are now kicking against it have no right to do so. It is one of the absurdities of this country that a group would take part in something, and then come out later to cry foul.
What do you have to say to politicians who have defected from one party to another since the APC won the 2015 presidential election?
It has really become a trend in Nigerian politics for politicians to defect from the losing party to the ruling party immediately after every election, as witnessed in their moving from PDP to APC. The reasons are very simple. One, there is no difference between APC and PDP in terms of ideology. There is no ideological difference between the two parties. Once the parties in Nigeria begin to have ideologies, defection would reduce.
Two, they defect for business and contractual reasons. They want to enjoy as they used to enjoy. They don’t defect for the benefit of the masses. The third reason for cross carpeting is to avoid prosecution. It might interest you to know that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation has the power not to prosecute or to stop an ongoing prosecution. With this power, he can stop a case and institute a new one within any court in Nigeria.
So, many of these politicians defecting have lots of skeleton in their cupboard, and they want to avoid trial and continue the impunity. Thus, the need for defecting to ruling party to enjoy the above three things I mentioned. However, this has nothing to do with the constitution that needs to be amended to checkmate this ugly political trend.
It has rather got to do with integrity of the system. How could you see a former minister, governor, senator, members of House of Representatives and council chairmen who were in PDP for sixteen years, suddenly defecting to the ruling APC?
It is very shameful and disappointing.
In your view, how can elected representatives be held accountable by their constituents?
From what we are seeing today of APC government, I think it is high time activists woke up from their slumber to monitor the government and wake them up. It is really worrying that APC that promised Nigerians heaven on earth is giving us nothing and the same NGOs are sleeping. Then something is wrong. Even the electorate has become part and parcel of these problems. Voters seem not to be careful during electioneering. The media ought to also wake up, and check the excesses of these politicians. Besides, we can hold them accountable by exercising our electoral power wisely. There is nowhere it is written in the Bible or Koran that non-performing government should not be voted out come next election. There is no sentiment about that. The power resides in us and we should use it well in 2019. We should not be fooled again by those politicians who are out to serve only themselves.
I think that the report clearly stood for restructuring. Most of the national issues we are debating now were answered at the confab. The Biafra case will die if you implement the report. Niger Delta crisis would die, and even the Boko Haram will end if you implement that report.