”They have destroyed Nigeria’s economy, our togetherness and unity and the very fabric of our existence as a people and nation. More than ever, Nigerians are divided by many lines such that they are now beginning to question our workability as a country,” said a former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Government Affairs, Kabiru Turaki (SAN), in an explosive interview with Chineme Okafor. Excerpts:
Do you agree that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the 2015 election through self-defeat?
I don’t share the view that PDP lost because we caused it by ourselves. In any human endeavour at any time there could be flaws arising from our imperfections and frailties as human beings, but the truth of the matter is that for the first time in our political history, there was a well-planned and well-orchestrated propaganda that had never been seen in the history of Nigeria or anywhere in Africa.
The APC then revolved their campaign around three issues – corruption, insecurity and economy. On the economy, they knew well that the PDP did extremely well, managing a wobbling economy to become the strongest economy in Africa, and then raising the confidence of local and international investors to begin to invest in the Nigerian economy such that it became the third most sought-after investors haven after China and Qatar, and so they abandoned it.
Even on corruption and insecurity, they brought in a lot of propaganda and hyped the expectations of Nigerians. The APC in their campaign tried to give a picture that PDP was engaged in monumental corruption and so they were abusing everybody, and some Nigerians believed that indeed the PDP was corrupt.
We are not saying that there could not have been situations where some government officials did not discover some weakness in the system and took advantage of the flaws, or that there were not some people that were engaged in some unwholesome practices, but we are saying that the PDP-led federal government then under President Goodluck Jonathan did the best it could, in fact, from President Obasanjo.
Realising that there could be flaws in the system and that there could be some unscrupulous individuals that could take advantage of these flaws, we laid the foundation for the architecture for war against corruption.
The PDP-led government established EFCC and ICPC. We strengthened them with men and women of character, as well as good funding. Our style was absolutely different from what the APC led government is doing now.
We recognised that this is democracy and that there is this general assumption that in Africa, government of the day usually would want to muddle up operations and harass opposition, and so started the war against corruption from within. We investigated and arraigned people that held offices under PDP starting from the former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion, Senator Danjuma Goje, Abdullahi Adamu, and even ministers who were arraigned before courts. We started from within because we believe that charity must start from the home.
What is happening today is that we have a party that believes the best is to decimate opposition and destroy the fabrics and foundations of democracy. If we go back to all the noise that were made about corruption – the biggest of it being that a lot of PDP officials were involved in the $2.1 billion arms deal which the whole of it were not true, can this government honestly open its mouth to say that PDP was involved in humongous corrupt practices with what is happening now?
Just recently, the NBS said that in one year between 2016 and 2017, there was over N400 billion that exchanged hands in bribe and this affected only the police and judiciary and this is coming from well-respected institutions. There is no statement from government to challenge that.
Look at what is happening in the NNPC as well.
We believe that if the PDP can run this country in 16 years and they can only accuse us of getting involved in $2.1 billion corruption, then in one year, just from one single institution – the NNPC, there is an allegation of about $25 billion, and this is not coming from the PDP or members of the opposition but from a serving minister. Certainly Ibe Kachikwu is not a busy-body and would not talk if he has no facts and would not write a letter to his commander-in-chief. Who leaked the letter is immaterial now because the issue is that a serving minister got frustrated of the uncommon corruption in the agency that he leads and wrote to the president, and this is just two years of being in government.
What about the campaign of insecurity?
This is another issue they took against us and they involved the insecurity in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram. We solved completely the problem of restlessness in the Niger Delta starting from President Yar’Adua and Jonathan.
The issue of Boko Haram was because it was something that were new to Nigerians and our security agencies because terrorism had never been with us. At a point in time, we were able to get support from friendly nations and began to understand the dynamics and were winning the war in spite of the allegations that were made. When the 2015 elections were postponed by six weeks, a lot of ground were covered and Boko Haram members were isolated.
What is happening today is that not only has the APC government been unable to contain the grounds that we recovered, but every day you hear acts of terrorism and Boko Haram killing our armed forces and Nigerians living within these areas who were informed that Boko Haram had been decimated only for them to go back home and got killed. Look at the killings in the IDP camps as well.
What about kidnapping that has become so terrible today along the Abuja-Kaduna axis, Abuja-Minna axis, Bauchi-Birnin Kebbi axis, or even the south-east or Lagos, everywhere, as well as armed robbery and farmers and herdsmen which this government has deliberately kept quiet. We keep on saying that Nigerian entered ‘one-chance’ vehicle with the APC government, Nigerians were hoodwinked by the APC propaganda because they never thought they were going to win elections and were making promises they knew they would never keep.
They have destroyed Nigeria’s economy, destroyed our togetherness and unity and the very fabric of our existence as a people and nation. More than ever, Nigerians are divided by many lines such that they are now beginning to question our workability as a country. We are a people who for long have identified our differences as our source of strength.
APC still operate as if they are in opposition. They are in government and have the opportunity of first-hand information, yet they talk in pedestrian manners and from position of lack of information and knowledge whereas they have all the information.
The APC-led government will not admit to making any mistakes in its economic policies, instead, it keeps blaming the PDP?
What are the opportunities that APC brought into Nigeria? They promised two million jobs every year but there is a lot of joblessness and hopelessness everywhere. They promised prosperity but we have adversity. They promised to strengthen the economy but the economy is weak and thank God Nigerians are now beginning to make comparison and I am confident that by the time we go to the polls in 2019, Nigerians will wake up and vote out the APC at all levels.
When PDP came to power, it inherited a very shaky economy as a result of longstanding military regimes, and a lot of Nigerians had no confidence in the economy and so a lot of Nigerians were checking out the country – doctors, lawyers, scientists, pharmacists were going outside to look for greener pasture. This was the state of Nigeria when PDP came in and we had to make Nigerians believe in themselves.
PDP revived a new phase of patriotism and nationalism. We started wealth creation and prosperity, agriculture became sources of earning, Nigerians in diaspora started coming home to invest in the country as well as other investors. We liberalised the economy and made sure there was security for investments and investors.
We were able to transform Nigerian economy to become the biggest in Africa and one of the fastest in growth. Investors were coming in because of these safeguards. Within three months of APC taking over the country, investors left the country while companies sacked workers.
From number one economy in Africa, we are now down on the ladder and from the third fastest growing economy, we are now nowhere around that. There are widespread corruptions even in the CBN where the Emir of Kano has said there are people who sleep and wake up with billions because of the allocation of forex given to them by the CBN.
I pity the next coming PDP government because we have been taken 20 years back, and we have to start to rebuild confidence in Nigerians and foreign investors.
The Supreme Court recently gave the PDP a lifeline, even at that you are not challenging the APC with issue-based criticism, what gives you the impression you will win the polls in 2019?
I agree with you because most of us are yet to recover from the shock of the defeat we had in the 2015 election. We allowed opposition to grow when we were in government and supported them to grow. We did not harass any opposition leader and we never stopped anyone from speaking or said criticisms were hate speech. We never molested anybody for free expression of their thoughts.
APC has being in government for two years now, but what have they got to show except monumental corruption – the grass cutting scandal of the suspended SGF is there. Nigerians are aware of the hypocrisy of the APC now.
We are human, and President Jonathan wanted the election to be done in transparent manners and for the first time a sitting president conceded defeat. Instead of building on that and moving the nation forward, the APC is dividing Nigerians.
They did not stop there and wanted to destroy PDP by inserting that crisis within us, but we are with God in PDP and decided that we would not fight dirty but would resolve the crisis in a manner that it will not only benefit PDP but democracy in the country. The issue of interpretation of the constitution of a political party with regards to the power of the national convention and so the decision of the Supreme Court has not only settled the rift in PDP but has set the standard that will settle any similar quarrel that will arise in any political party in Nigeria.
Now the person that was sent in to cause crisis has, even with the statement of the National Chairman that there is no victor or vanquished, said no, he wanted to go back to the APC and the party has rejected him. That is pointer to all people in political parties that they should beware of people who use them to destabilise their parties.
We have learnt a lesson in PDP and have been able to now forgive each other.
Arising from the in-house troubles we had, we have agreed that there must be level playing field in whatever we are going to do at all levels. We have also resolved that there must be inclusivity, and no more impunity in whatever we do. We have also revolved more fundamentally that since our slogan has always been ‘power to the people’ that we now have to take the power back to the people and let them decide who becomes the candidate for any election in Nigeria under the platform of the PDP. This is part of our strategy to recapture power in 2019, of course, there are other strategies but certainly, you will not expect me to divulge all our strategies, but by the time we deploy them, APC will tell INEC to forget about the election and hand over to PDP.
How is the PDP going to manage some of the high-profile returnees that it is expecting back in its fold?
This is what has given us additional reason to celebrate, and that is that you cannot kill the truth. After the series of attacks that we received from the APC through orchestrated and well-planned propaganda, the same PDP members that were used to destroy the party and used to help APC win elections are coming back now and that is a source of joy to us.
PDP is a large family and you must expect that there will be differences in opinions but what has helped us as a large family is to discuss our differences and then carry everybody along in such a way and manner that at the end of the day people are convinced they are carried along. Our doors are wide open for all of our brothers and sisters who had left and new members.
You see a lot of our past members who had abused us in the past wanting to come back and that is a very big statement and I will leave it for Nigerians to interpret. Some of them have not found a home in the APC. We will open the doors to them if they want to come back, we will forgive as a party though, but we will not forget because no son will take his mother to the market and strip her naked and eventually buy her the best lace materials to wear, will expect the mother to forget the humiliation even if she appreciates the clothes.
That a lot of people are beginning to think that the PDP is a veritable vehicle for retaking power gladdens our heart because not more than 12-16 months ago, a lot of were not even thinking about the PDP within the equation because they thought that the PDP was going under and going to disintegrate.
They promised two million jobs every year but there is a lot of joblessness and hopelessness everywhere.