By OMONIYI SALAUDEEN
|Next year, Nigeria will be marking its centenary celebration. By no means, hundred years is not a joke in the life of a nation. Yet, some cynics who believe in the doomed prediction of a failed state are still highly apprehensive of what 2015 holds for the country. In this interview, the immediate past national Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and one time Minister of Information and Culture, Prince Tony Momoh, dismisses the fears as unfounded. He submits that in spite of the failings of successive governments and several national questions begging for answers, Nigeria will surely attain its mission as ordained by God Almighty. His words: “Within the next 25 years, Nigeria will make a statement in this world and the world will listen.” He, however, warns PDP to desist from any attempt to rig the coming general election. Excerpts:|
Looking at Nigeria, would you say the journey so far has been very smooth?
Man analyzes situations from where he stands today. The failings man notices today are the failings he has noticed by looking at what is happening today or what happened yesterday. In the light of that introductory statement, I will say that those who see what we’ve been through as a success and those who see what we’ve been through as a failure are in relating it to Obasanjo’s half empty and half full glass of water both right. As a young reporter, I have been monitoring what’s happening from 1962 till date. And I am doing it without commitment to any ideology, commitment to any individuals, commitment to any ethnic group, commitment to any so-called philosophy. Therefore, I cannot be denied claim to some truth of what I am saying. In other words, what I am telling you is the truth as it is, not as truth as many people see it from different perspectives. It is true that the packaging of Nigeria started in 1849. It is a historical fact. And the man who started it was British consul, Mr Beecroft, who was the consul to the Bight of Benin and Bight of Biafra. The packaging of Nigeria started outside Nigeria in Fernadopo in 1849. By 1861, something very profound took place. Lagos was ceded to the British. By 1914, Nigeria as integrated space was packaged. But preceding that integrated space, thousands of communities were living together intermarrying, trading and fighting. All sorts of things happening inter communally. The British did not bring together Nigerians as a people. They only brought together the land where Nigerians lived. In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta was very specific. He said, ‘they came, gave us their Bible and took our land.’
In Zimbabwe, the struggle still goes on. In South Africa, more than ¾ of land belongs to the whites. And up till now even after apartheid had gone, I think what they have succeeded in doing is legalizing apartheid. There is no fundamental addressing of the iniquity, inequality in the South African situation. So, Nigeria had this integrated space brought together by Britain which led to the amalgamation in 1914. So, what we have from 1914 to 2014 when Nigeria will be 100 year is amalgamated space. The people have never been integrated. And is the failure of Britain and more failure of Nigeria because we had independence 53 years ago and up till now, we have not integrated the people. Not only have we not integrated the people, we have divided the people. There was no ethnicity, there was no religion, cultural, or any other form of profound division that would lead one Nigerian killing another before independence and it had never happened. It happened when the presidential system came. And why? Because presidential system being a political package, the constituencies were widened. Concentration of power at the centre in Nigeria is more than anywhere else in the world. Even in unitary states, there is more autonomy for component units than in Nigeria which is supposed to be federal, but we are not having a federation. So, the problem of Nigeria is who says it is his turn to now preside over the sharing of the national cake which nobody is prepared to be a part of the baking. We don’t bake a national cake; we just want to share it. If for instance, you say today whoever wants to become the president of Nigeria, the group he belongs to should contribute money to run Nigeria, nobody will agree to be president of Nigeria. We have done warm to the integrated states by splitting them up. The problem is that we have had a political contraption that must be addressed in the dialogue the president is calling. I support the dialogue because to save Nigeria, we must talk. The question is how many times do we talk? Those who are talking already have in mind what they want. And if it is not forthcoming, they throw away the baby with bathwater. Did Obasanjo not do so in 2005/2006 because he didn’t get third term?
What are your suggestions for the conference?
The integrated space we had in 1914 has disintegrated into units-36 states and 774 local government areas. We need political re-engineering that will readdress issues that will bring together by and large space and people. For instance, the six geo-political zones should be the federating units. In so doing, the regions become project implementation regions. Local government should be cancelled. Section 7 of the constitution is very clear on it that local governments should be run by democratically elected governments. The functions and powers of local government should be addressed by the House of Assembly. Today, nobody follows that. Look at Anambra State, Peter Obi has been there for eight years and there is no local government election. Because the state INEC is the one conducting local government election, they just write results. That is why local governments are conduit pipes because the governors pocket half of the money coming to the local government. Local governments in Kano and Jigawa are more than local governments in the whole of the South-South. What type of thing is that? So, we need to cancel local governments. Any of the regions that wants more local governments can create them and fund them. By the time we do that, we will now have three tiers-the national, the regional and states. Then, we cancel the executive governor position and bring the parliamentary system, if not to the national level, definitely to the state level. The party with the majority will appoint a premier as head of government at the state level. By so doing, you will save at least 80 percent of the expenditure.
States are now complaining of not getting federal allocation as at when due. What is your reaction to this development?
The tragedy is that they make all forms of deductions. The federation account managers are complaining, nobody listens. There is no accountability. What we have is massive manipulation at the centre which has reduced all values to corruption and indiscipline. Democracy is not a donkey project you just carry from America and dump on Nigeria. America is a different country, England is a different country, Mali is a different country. All of these countries are different. The quantum of freedom in a particular region is determined by the pace of growth of that environment. What we have done in Nigeria is to bounce on democracy without development. Where you want to develop, you do not take more than 20 to 25 percent of the budget for the current expenditure. Every other thing must be ploughed into development. Today, more than 80 percent goes on recurrent expenditure. That is why I say we are eating the future in the present. So, we must have development before democracy, not democracy before development. Democracy has to do with freedom. All this allusion to dividends of democracy is all hogwash. A borehole is not a dividend of democracy. An hospital, education, roads are not dividends of democracy. They are expectations of governance. We say democracy and social justice. Justice is reflected in infrastructures, education, the economy, culture, the environment and foreign policy. Democracy is not a provider of hospitals, democracy is not a provider of roads, democracy is not a provider of food. Government is there because of welfare and security of the people. But because of our preoccupation with eating the future in the present through taking democracy before development, there is no welfare, there is no security.
In your opinion, what is slowing down the pace of development in Nigeria?
Development has to do with an orderly way of growing human beings in the material sense. We have a long way to go. What is happening in China today started in 1980. Peugeot and Volkswagen Assemblies were established in Nigeria the same year as Brazil. But we have been importing vehicles from Brazil. Couldn’t we have looked at all the parts and developed a way to manufacturing them? Even tyre factories have relocated to outside Nigeria. So, where is the growth? The big tragedy in Nigeria is that we refuse to look into the endowment of Nigeria. And let me go spiritual here; darkness is at work in Nigeria. Whether you believe it or not, you are not alone. Nigeria is mapped out by God Almighty for greatness. And when God Almighty programmes you for a particular role, that role must be achieved. If you cannot achieve it, you will be replaced to have it achieved. Though the darkness will work to ensure it fails, but God’s programme never fails. It can be delayed. Within the next 25 years, Nigeria will make a statement in this world and the world will listen. Why is it that so much is wrong in Nigeria? When a Nigerian goes out of Nigeria, within three months, he dominates the environment. It is not intellectual, it is spiritual. Why is it that there are so many churches in Nigeria today? Nigeria has the fastest growing churches in the world. Spiritual anointing is done by God; Satan does not anoint. But Satan can divert that anointing to other means. Where, for instance, pastors and priests ought to be catering for their flocks, they collect money and buy Jets . It is diversion, but the judgment is on. There is nothing anybody can do about it. Nothing like this has happened since the time of the Jews and the Germans. Up till now, Jewish and German anointing, in spite of their failures, dominates the world. The next is Nigeria. And there is nothing anybody can do about it. I am not guessing. That is why I have given so much to Nigeria.
So, when people say Nigeria will collapse in 2015, I just laugh. Nigeria won’t collapse. Election will come in 2015 and go. Whoever will lose will go and sit down at home. Nigeria will see better days.
Even as some groups are threatening fire and brimstone that if a particular person doesn’t win, Nigeria will go down in flames?
It is a lie. Nigeria is greater than anybody.
In spite of the concerns Nigerians are having about the state of the economy, the Minister of Finance keeps telling the people that the economy is healthy. What do you have to say about this?
She is correct because of her background. She is a die-hard disciple of Bretton Woods institutions- IMF and the World Bank. The IMF and the western world see growth in terms of money. So, if money is flowing in, then Nigeria is growing. That is why I told you the only resource is man. Every other thing is to be mobilised by man. You are in this earth to use resources of the earth to grow the presence of man on earth. Do you think it is only here you have people? The whole of creation is populated. Your presence on earth is to help grow the earth for the benefit of man on earth. The Bretton Woods institutions and their agents are talking about growth in Nigeria because money is flowing in. But in the real sense, there is no growth. Money can flow in without growth. Okonjo- Iweala, fantastic woman, is a disciple of Bretton Woods institution. She is a very great messenger of that institution. Was she not the one who organized the so-called debt forgiveness and gave away $12 billion to forgive us $30 billion of doubtful origin? They said we borrowed money. The total we borrowed was $15 billion. And we borrowed when N1 was $1.50. In other words, for $17 billion we borrowed, the naira value was less than N13 billion. Later, we paid $22 billion at the rate of about N80 to the dollar. Abacha said, ‘tell me how we came by it.’ They refused and all the years Abacha refused to pay because they didn’t tell him, they punished Nigeria for it. Instead of us to look at other scenarios, because money was flowing in from oil, they influenced us to pay $12 billion. Okonjo-Iweala presided over that with Obasanjo. Not only did they pay that $12 billion, they also paid commission on it. If you look at that, you will see that we are losing the use of that $12 billion to empower our people. If we put out that money for empowerment of our people, we will be spending about $15 billion in every senatorial district a year for about 15 years.
They said we will never borrow again. And I said it in my book- Echoes of The Past- that we will still borrow. Is she not the one presiding over borrowing now? And, of course, owing local debt is worse than foreign debt. If you are owing foreign debt, it can be rescheduled for you. But for the local debt, those who took money from banks to establish industries will lose their collateral, their dependants will lose their jobs, their families will suffer and people will be dropping dead.
Do you also see any danger in the dwindling demand for oil in the world market?
In Echoes of the Past, I said Obama is the President of the United States of America, not the president for Africa. And he would work for America and protect the interest of America. A person like Bush tried to protect dependency on oil for sometime because of his interest and family interest in that area. But Obama is going to shorten American dependency on oil for at least ten years. So, very soon, they won’t need our oil. In any case, oil is a gift of 20th century. The gift of 21st century is the inaccessible energy-sunlight. And when the solar comes, how to manipulate it will just drop in the mind of someone and before you know it, it will be worldwide. When we were using typewriter, did you ever foresee the coming of computer? These prototypes are there in the immediate beyond in billions ready to be downloaded on earth to make man comfortable so that man would grow. Everything here is an invention. Who invented the car? The car was not invented; it was discovered. The computer was discovered. All these things are discovered because the beings bring them to this level so that life would be easier. It is already there in prototype, it is downloaded here. And billions of things are coming. Nigeria will be an anchor of reception. If you know how great this country is going to be, everybody will fast and make sacrifices to hasten that growth.
What informs this optimism even as the country wobbles and fumbles?
Wobbling and fumbling is part of darkness. You will see what will happen when the sky is open for downloading of the goodies meant for mankind on earth coming through Nigeria. Nothing can stop it. I speak of what I know, I don’t guess. When I was Minister of Information, I was writing letter to my countrymen and I was talking that Nigeria does not only have a future, it has a mission. Now, I know the mission. Nigeria is going to make a statement. Those who are going to rule Nigeria in the next 25 years will be those who know God.
You have been part and parcel of the merger of the progressive forces. Now that the merger has been consummated and All Progressives Congress (APC) registered. What should Nigerians expect?
It is now that the work has started. In my own analysis, I discovered we have had coalitions, we have had alliances, and they didn’t work. While a lot of peoples’ minds were working, my mind zeroed in on the fact that unless we merge, we can’t beat PDP. It is not that PDP has ever won any election; no. PDP’s manipulations of results through manipulating all the institutions can only be checkmated when you have a party that can look at PDP eyeball to eyeball and that is APC. But there is a lot of work to do. The journey has begun, the battle lines are drawn. We want peace in this country; we want to deepen our democracy. We don’t just want to take power from PDP, we want to sell and market what we have for Nigerians that the PDP has not given them in the last 14 years they have been in power. We have more than enough money to grow Nigeria. That money will be appropriately channeled, if Nigeria gives us the chance to manage its own affairs. Look at ASUU strike, look at doctors strike. Are you telling me there is no money to pay them? People just sit down and share the money and we are saying it can’t happen again.
As former Minister of Information and Culture, your role was to manage the image of government. If you were given another opportunity to perform the same role, would you be able to manage the image of the present government?
I won’t be in a position to be Minister of Information and Culture again. I was Minister of Information and Culture in 1986 to 1990. I empathize with my colleague who is now the Minister of Information and Culture-Labaran Maku. I pray for him to be a successful Minister of Information and Culture.