Comrade Debo Adeniran is the Executive Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) and a public affairs commentator. He spoke with EJIKEME OMENAZU on President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent dissolution of the Economic Management Team and appointment of the Economic Advisory Committee, among other issues. Excerpt:
President Muhammadu Buhari recently dissolved the Economic Management Team led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and in its place constitutes the Economic Advisory Committee (EAC) led by Professor Doyin Salami. How do you see the development?
The Presidency is one. Most of the activities of that office are determined by the office of the President. Everyone in the office of the Vice President is designated as the aide to the President. The Vice President is aware of what the President does. I think the various opinions that a lawyer is not the best to lead the Economic Team might have made the president to change the team. Osinbajo being a lawyer heading the economic team could make some fundamental mistakes. Some people believe that it does not matter who is the head, if the members are economists. I believe there is no problem in the office of the vice president. His removal is not because of lack of wisdom on the side of the vice president.
Nigeria has a lot of economic problems. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has already exonerated Buhari on the economic downturn of the country. A lot of things went wrong in the past administrations. The administration is grappling with several issues of mismanagement by the past administrations. Nobody is blaming the vice president. The vice president cannot right the wrongs of the past administrations without impute of economic experts. What President Buhari wants to do in consultation with vice president is to get the experts. Rewane, Soludo, etc, are the experts. It is good to invite such people. If they cannot get it right within one year, President Buhari may have a rethink and a reshuffle. Buhari has the prerogative of what he wants to do and who can do it. He is a listening president. Fixing the economy is not easy.
Could you comment on the removal of the Head of Service, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita and Okoi Obno-Obla from their positions to make way for their probes by the anti-graft agencies?
I think President Buhari wants to put his critics to shame. People believe he did not want to touch members of his team. He has proven that he cannot exclude certain class of people from prosecution. He has demonstrated this several times. That is what CACOL has been talking about. Anybody accused of corruption has to face the music. He has to resign, or be sacked. The anti-graft agencies have to probe and such people charged to court. If they are found guilty, they have to be punished. We are happy over the development. Public offices have to be given to those who are altruistic, rather than those who want to enrich themselves.
Even the ICPC, which was moribund, has become active under its current leadership. AMCON and other companies have been on their toes and all debtors will be made to cough out what they owe. We predicted that President Buhari will not disappoint, especially on the anti-graft war. Only those who are honest and pro-people and ready to serve will take up government jobs.
How would you react to the speculation that the Presidency might favour Babagana Kingibe as successor to President Buhari, while Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Ibikunle Amosun and Babatunde Fashola are being considered for the position of vice president as against the rotational arrangement between South and North? Won’t this cause a rift within the ruling party if true as the South, especially South West may no longer trust the North?
At our level, we do not support rotational of political appointments. At CACOL, we do not care if northerners always come up. Our analysis has shown that northerners are more honest. Most corrupt presidents are from South. Murtala Mohammed, Umaru Y’Adua and Buhari are not from South. Obasanjo is not from North. Most institutions collapsed under his watch. Jonathan is from South. Most infrastructures deteriorated under his watch. The West – East Road was undone under his watch and has remained undone. Jonathan did not handle the West – East Rail. I will even prefer North – North ticket if that will give Nigeria what we want.
Under Fashola as Minister of Power, Works and Housing, we had no Housing. No Roads. All federal roads have remained bad. The Lagos – Ibadan expressway is still under construction. Tony Anenih as Minister of Works, Diezani Alison-Madueke are all Southerners. Orubebe, Dan Etete, Don Etiebet are all Southerners. What impact did they make with the opportunities given to them? Southerners are not suitable to safeguard the interest of Nigerians. Northerners do not do preferential treatment, but distributes wealth more even than the Southerners. They are victims of terrorism. It does not matter who is president. Nigerians want a leader who is ready to work in the interest of most Nigerian people. Nigerians should do thorough background check of anyone who wants to occupy public office.
What is your take on the $9.6 billion judgment against Nigeria by a UK court?
I don’t envy Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation. He has not been a good defender of Nigerian people. I wonder why he was reappointed as minister. But, it may not be his fault. Those who signed contracts that they knew would not be implemented should be picked up by the anti-graft agencies for that problem. I don’t know if Bayo Ojo briefed the Federal Government well. Many Nigerians do not know about P&ID contract until this case came up.
The contract was meant to fail by people who signed it because they knew that Nigeria can easily be fleeced. Nigeria should contest the UK court judgment. If Nigeria’s assets are confiscated, the government should confiscate the assets of people who caused this. Nigeria should deal with people who are culpable on this. The company should also bear the brunt of entering into a contract it did not intend to execute.
Do you think Abubakar Atiku stands a chance for victory at the Supreme Court after his loss at the Presidential Election Tribunal?
Politicians do not look at the cause of matters. They look at the effects. The constitution and the law have given the Independent National Election Tribunal (INEC) powers to declare who wins an election. When anyone is contesting an election result and is putting INEC as part of the litigant, such a person will not find it easy to win as INEC will surely defend the result it announced. Thus, INEC cannot be on the side of Atiku.
INEC said they do not have a server. The Atiku side created one. No judge will agree to that. There was no law that electronic voting would be adopted. What we had was electronic verification. On the issue of qualification, when someone has reached the rank of a General in the Army, he must have done a lot of trainings far more that School Certificate. Buhari’s trainings are more than School Certificate. School Certificate is just the basic.
Atiku going to the Supreme Court will be an academic exercise. What the tribunal declared is that Buhari won the election and accordingly qualified to contest election. I wish Atiku good luck. He has the right to appeal. He has the right to spend his money. He has people urging him to spend his money for them to feed fat on. He is not likely to win at the Supreme Court.