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Friday, 2 December 2016

2019: Overzealous Politicians Working To Destroy APC – Ogiemwonyi

Chris Ogiemwonyi was an All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant in the last election in Edo State. He was also a Group Executive Director of the NNPC. He spoke on some national issues in this interview with PATRICK OCHOGA.
National Asset as part of solutions in tackling the current recession?
We hear people talk about selling of national assets and people are pointing at NLNG, I am completely opposed to the sale of our asset, there are alternatives. If you look at the NLNG model today it is a 51% IOC and 49% Federal Government Joint Ventures. Instead of just selling my take is that government should go and borrow with good interest rates. Borrowing is not bad but it should be well utilized. This is where good leadership with clear vision comes in. And that is why we are lucky with President Buhari and his zero tolerance to corruption. With President Buhari we can borrow, and tie the funds to capital projects.
What is your view on the anti-corruption war of President Buhari?
There is corruption everywhere, even the cook you send to the market, driver you send to buy fuel are all corrupt. We allowed it to grow to a cancerous stage; we just have to quickly strengthen the security agencies especially the EFCC. I have also heard that people are saying it is one-sided and only targeted at the opposition. Look at cases of the judges, corruption has eaten into the very fabric of our nation, today, the EFCC is not doing badly, if I have my way I will expand EFCC to be like a ministry and as such have EFCC Czar in all the States just like we have Commissioners of Police, we just have to expand it, the cases before the commission are too many. The Judiciary again is not helping matters; I think there should be legislation where no case will exceed 6 months. And the EFFC boss Mr Magu should be confirmed to immediately give him confidence.
Having spent 34 years at the NNPC how will you described the reform in that sector under the NNPC Boss, Maikanti Baru?
Once the leadership is properly placed, the tendency is that the company will run well. I must commend Mr President for appointing Baru, he is a fantastic Engineer, courageous and fearless, he went through the various sectors of NNPC unblemished. Many of the issue confronting NNPC, like the restructuring, the PIB, JV funding, with Baru we can go to sleep, I see a better NNPC under him; For once, this is a round peg in round hole. What I will urge government to do is to support him and allow NNPC to run as a business outfit. The only issue we are yet to address now is the refineries; government should also have the will power to do a complete deregulation in the downstream, once we do that the issue of fraud and corruption in the downstream could be eliminated. I also think that we should start having local refineries because if you see what we are doing, we take crude out and refine in some neighbouring West African Countries which are brought back as refined products, we need to put in place modular refineries just as it was done in Niger Republic.

You participated in the Edo June 18, 2016 governorship primaries. What lessons did you learn from it?
The APC governorship primary in Edo State has come and gone and I have since moved back to my Oil and Gas consulting business. Talking about lessons learnt from the primaries, one thing was very prominent and that was the role played by a seating governor and I have since realized that the seating governor has an overwhelming influence on who succeeds him. He has about 60% influence. Secondly, looking at the various primaries within and outside Edo State, I can see the high level of opaqueness, that is, the more you look, the less you see. There is a mind-set of who will win the primaries from the onset and that is why today people are clamoring for Independent candidacy and I pray that our politics will evolve to that level so that people who have the capacity can come out as independent candidates.
Some of your party leaders, opposed to the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun are calling for his resignation. What is your take?
You will recall when I joined APC in November 20, 2014; I said two individuals caused me to join the party, that is President Muhammadu Buhari and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun for their respective individual Characters. Chief  Oyegun has been a first all his life. A brilliant and principled public servant, he is well read, an economist from a premier University and spent all his years in the public service. A man who at the tender age of 36 rose to the position of Permanent Secretary at the Federal level, taking charge of key Federal Ministries. He challenged the money bags in the then Edo State and their collaborators in Abuja to become the first Executive Governor of Edo State. This is a man who could have clinched key ministerial position in Gen Sani Abacha’s government but instead opted out as NADECO Secretary in exile. For 16 years that PDP was in power, he was wooed and cajoled to join “the biggest party in Africa” but he refused to budge and abandon his progressive position in partisan politics. So having Oyegun as the national chairman of APC is a blessing, I don’t know what Nigerians want; we have this ‘pull him down syndrome’. Who are the people calling for his removal? They are some over ambitious APC chieftains; some of them are not well read. Odigie-Oyegun is a quiet and amiable gentleman with capacity to work. The Nigeria media must not join this people in flying this narrative; some of them have resorted to all sorts of propaganda so that Mr President will take action against Chief Odigie-Oyegun. We urge President Buhari and APC as a party to be weary of these overzealous politicians that want to destroy the APC. What they are doing today is not really about Odigie-Oyegun, rather they are throwing stones at Mr President and that is because before they get to Mr President they want to get the national chairman out of the way. They see him as a buffer for Mr President and ultimately for 2019. We are barely two years into the Buhari-led administration and they are already fighting ahead of 2019. Their desire is to discredit Odigie-Oyegun so that their plot against Mr President can work. So it is not Odigie-Oyegun that they are fighting, but President Buhari.
There is pressure on President Buhari to reshuffle his cabinet over alleged non-performance, how do you respond to this?
Nigerians are too much in a hurry. Asking Mr President to remove a minister that has served just less than 18 months is unfair. When I was Group Executive Director in the NNPC, I went for a meeting with the Algerians, little did I know that the Algerian minister had a PhD in Gas Engineering and had been there for 12 years, he became an authority when you talk about Gas but we don’t do that in Nigeria. You put a man in office and under one year people starts fighting to remove him. For me, Mr President have a good team, my advice is to realign their portfolios. Today people are talking about many lawyers in his cabinet, what Mr President should do is to look for core professionals and move them to their related ministries, that is square peg in square hole. People are speculating that Oshiomhiole is coming in; he definitely can do well as labour minister considering the fact that he was once a strong unionist as NLC President. People should be appointed in such a way that they can add value. Look at the two Ministers of Health being core medical personnel. So, Mr President can look inward and see how he can rejig and realign ministers to ministries related to their fields of study.
What are your perspectives on the economic recession and possible way out?
Truly, we are in a recession caused by several factors. First, there was poor leadership by the previous government, Oil price drop, Nigeria’s over- dependence on foreign products, corruption, mono-economy (over dependency on Oil and Gas), the activities of militants and pipeline vandals, Unstable monetary policies, Unemployment are contributing factors. Corruption grew like an oak tree and we allowed it to grow. Today, we import all kinds of things into the country including tooth picks. Now, the question is how do we come out of it? On a short term, I recommend to Mr President that we should quickly resolve the Niger Delta issue. Recently, some Niger Delta leaders met with Mr President but I want to differ because I feel the governors should be the arrow head of such meeting because they know the people. Secondly, what we need to do by way of moving our nation forward comprises the following: By putting in place strong institutions that will ensure proper implementation and interpretation of our laws, it must be mentioned that waste must be cut in the government. The security vote must be reduced both at the federal level and at state levels, Promote “Made in Nigeria” Goods; we should encourage new businesses by lowering our interest rates, tackle job creation through agriculture and solid mineral development. We must as a matter of urgency encourage all tiers of government to embark on road construction to ease transportation of goods and services. On the medium and long term, the rail way sector should be developed.

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