The National Auditor of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief George Muoghalu, had played prominent roles in opposition politics until he joined the All Progressives Congress. In this interview with Onyebuchi Ezigbo, he talks about why President Muhammadu Buhari can be trusted to restore Nigeria’s fortunes. Excerpts:
Would you say President Mohammadu Buhari was reelected, because he had justified his first term in office?
By my own assessment, he did quite well, extremely well, taking into account the challenges – the enormity of the challenges he met on assumption of office and the circumstances. But barring all these, he did quite well. If you’ll recall in the course of the campaigns, the campaigns were anchored on three major planks: addressing security challenges, fighting corruption, and expanding the economy, and these three areas he did quite well.
Recall that as at the time he was being sworn into office, about 14 or 15 local governments of this country were under the control of Boko Haram insurgents. The terrorist group was running crazy, attacking everywhere and taking control. But today as we speak, no piece of Nigerian soil is under the control of Boko Haram or ISIS, no matter the name they go with.
As we speak, the issue of Boko Haram has been reduced drastically. That is not to say that you don’t have attack on soft targets, like you also have in some developed economies, where once in a while you have security challenges. Overall, the President has done very. There are new challenges, like the issue of Herdsmen, kidnapping and so on, but government has demonstrated commitment unlike before.
The morale of the military and the police is quite high. The effort is being sustained in that sector. So, in the area of security, he has done quite well. And if he continues with what he’s doing, I’m sure that in the nearest future the security issues will be a thing of the past, because if you look at the roadmap, the new security architecture, you will agree that a lot is being done.
Then, on the issue of corruption, even the man’s enemies will agree that he has fought corruption frontally, but as being said, if you are fighting corruption, corruption is fighting back; so he is doing quite well in addressing issues that have to do with corruption. He is addressing it seriously. The agencies of government that are responsible for fighting corruption are living up to expectations and effort is being made to sustain that.
You and I agree as most Nigerians that corruption is endemic in the country, so it will require a sustained action to stem it. Like the President would say, if you don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill you. He has been fighting corruption frontally. Though it has been resisting, I’m confident that if he continues the fight, it would soon be a thing of the past.
Today, people do not steal with impunity, people look at their back before they commit any crime that has to do with corruption unlike before. So, that fight is on; it has to be sustained; it has to be continuous so that in the end, we can achieve the objective.
On the issue of the economy, it is being widely expanded. Today, we are talking about developing alternative sources of revenue, and that has to do with the investments government is making in the agricultural sector, solid mineral sector and even investment in infrastructure development, which has a way of providing opportunities for expanding the economy, providing opportunities for employment of additional hands and making money available in the hands of Nigerian people.
If you look at the investment government is making in road and rail infrastructure, the transport sector and power sector. So, overall speaking, he has done quite well but that is not to say all our problems have been solved.
The problems are still there, but these are problems that are associated with everyday living and so we’ll continue to address them as they come up. But overall, he has done quite well and that is why Nigerians gave him the opportunity for a second term. I am sure that if he didn’t do well, Nigerians would have not endorsed him for a second term.
You talk about Boko Haram being degraded, but the greatest concern of the average Nigerian today is security, which has become worse in recent times. With herdsmen ravaging communities, kidnapping, rustling and banditry, many states are now affected. The situation is scary. Do you still think so?
If you want to make your assessment based on social media, then, you may be wrong. One thing about the social media is that they may pick up pictures of things that happened in say Libya and post and put some titles and people tend to believe that it is what is happening in our country. Most of them are not correct. That is not to say the issue of the herdsmen is not there. The important thing here is whether the government is committed to addressing them. That’s the question anybody will need to ask.
And you and I know that government is doing all that is possible to ensure that these issues are addressed. When you talk about the issue of security, you also juxtapose it with the economy. Someone might say that because many young people are unemployed, there’s no money and therefore they are looking towards crime. That may be an excuse but that is not the position, because government is at the same time addressing these areas by way of investment in alternative sources of revenue, and investment in agriculture as a means of providing employment opportunity.
There is a massive investment in transport infrastructure by way of road and rail infrastructure so that many of our youths can be meaningfully engaged. But I agree with you that the scourge of insecurity is worrisome, but government is addressing it. Don’t forget that these are new phenomena. By the time he came in to office in 2015, the issue that was on the front burner was Boko Haram. And Boko Haram has been sufficiently reduced to the point that it was not like before.
Now the other security issues are also being addressed. The government is providing equipment to the fight these criminals and the morale of the security forces is high. Recently the police said they were recruiting more personnel.
Also don’t forget that the issue of security is not only for government, it is also for us citizens, because if we help the security agencies with information they need to achieve the same objective. At times, you find that these criminals we know them. They didn’t fall from the sky. The citizens know them.
They are people’s relatives and friends. They operate in the community and environment so we also have a responsibility and role to play to making sure that the environment is secure. The people are also trying by giving police the right information. We saw when the police paraded about 95 persons involved in kidnapping. My prayer is that efforts should be intensified in the area of intelligence gathering and citizens should continue to assist the security forces in information gathering.
After nearly three and half years, the ministers have been relieved of their duties. How would you rate their performance?
They have done well. It is a collective responsibility. The President alone couldn’t do it. It is a team work, the Vice-President is involved, the ministers, even the civil servants are involved because when they see the direction of the government they are bound to work in line with that government.
I think they have done reasonably well. But like I said, all our problems have not been solved and cannot be solved in four years and in one fell swoop. The important thing is that they are in the right direction. The president is focused in what he wants to achieve and he has the support of the Nigerian people, that’s why he was reelected.
In the next four years what direction would you like the party and government to focus?
Let the government sustain the effort that is being made. The vision of the president to leave Nigeria far better than he met it is clear. If you look at the issue of infrastructure investment, I will like that to be sustained. There is no state today, I want to be shown that state, that has no single federal government presence, either road repays or new roads, or rail lines and what have you.
Nigeria is like a project site now – everywhere infrastructure is being addressed. My prayer will be that government will sustain what they are doing, in pursuit of improved power generation, sustain the issue of infrastructural development, sustain the issue of economic growth and development; further investment in agricultural sector and things like that. At the end of the day, I think we will achieve a better result. But I’m confident that the incoming cabinet will see Nigeria from the prism of the president.
What manner of persons would you like to see in the new cabinet?
Nigerians, who are committed like the President, to achieve results; Committed, and I mean committed; Nigerians, who will see Nigeria from the bird’s eye-view of the president.
You’re from the South-east and many believe the zone has not benefited much from the administration, especially in sharing of key positions. Do you share that view?
That’s a misconception. The president has done a lot even for South-east and I can name projects. He has done a lot and is still going to do more. It’s an absolute misconception that the South-east is not beneficiary of this government. The 2nd Niger Bridge that we have been living on promises for the past 16 years, Buhari is doing it aggressively. I was there with the Vice President the other day.
The Onitsha-Enugu road is being constructed. The Enugu-Port Harcourt road is being reconstructed. The contract for Aba-Ikot Epkene-Abak Road has been awarded. These are key first class government projects that were abandoned by the previous administration. Our sons are in key positions of responsibility.
We are beneficiaries of the tradermoni, the social investment trust we are part of it. So, where are we excluded? Key positions are being shared. It is not about me deciding. The president has said that he was not discriminatory, and indeed he is not discriminating. The party is not discriminating. The important thing is that every part of Nigeria will be represented, and that I can assure you.
Key positions of the National Assembly are being decided, every zone is positioning for one slot or the other; some say deputy senate president; some Speaker. What would you like the Southeast zone to go for?
Every zone wants these positions you are talking about. I will not say which position, the important thing is that the party will decide and after deciding, we appeal to our people that this is what we want done. It is still the choice of our representatives in the two Chambers to decide where the leadership will come from at the end of the day.
So, what the party is doing is recommendation, because we are interested and justifiably so. Left to me, due to the selfishness in humans, I would want the president, vice-president, senate president and speaker – all to come from my local government, but it is not possible.