By Chukwudi Nweje
Martin Onovo, the 2015 Presidential Candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) has said President Bola Tinubu breached the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that required him to submit names of ministerial nominees within 60 days of taking the oath of office, and that there is no justice or equity in the South East getting only five nominees. He faulted the removal of subsidy at the instance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and noted that no recommendation offered by both institutions had worked in the country. He also discussed insecurity in the South East and other national issues.
The Senate has concluded the screening of ministerial nominees, what is your impression of the process and outcome?
First, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu breached the constitutional requirement as he submitted an incomplete and irregular list of only 28 nominees within the specified period of sixty days. The subsequent batches of nominees were clearly outside the constitutionally stipulated time specified by law. The first incomplete list had no nominees for many states and two nominees for some states. As we had predicted, the quality of nominees was very poor. The nominees included notorious champions of corruption, mediocre politicians, semi-illiterates and recycled failures. The outcome followed the biblical rule in Matthew 7 that says, “a bad tree, bears bad fruit”.
We are simply waiting for the judiciary to disqualify Alhaji Tinubu for forgery of Chicago State University certificate; multiple counts of perjury; citizenship of Guinea and the forfeiture of $460,000 proceeds of narcotics trafficking to the government of the United States of America.
As you pointed out, some states of the country have multiple nominees, for instance, the North West and South West have nine each, North East and North Central eight each, South South has seven, while the south East has five, what is your say?
The pillars of democracy are the rule of law and the integrity of the ballot. Alhaji Tinubu is not a democrat. He does not believe in the rule of law or the integrity of the ballot. He believes in “Emi lo kan” and seized power undemocratically. It is very clear that he was not even qualified to participate in the elections and he lost the elections woefully. Consequently, he must definitely proceed undemocratically. The lawless distribution of nominated ministers is a direct violation of Section 14 (3) of our Constitution.
Some of the nominees were merely asked to ‘take a bow and go’ by the Senate, some Nigerians express disappointment at the development, some other say they did not see the vibrancy expected from lawmakers elected on the platform of the Labour Party, that enthusiasm and valour that was characteristic of the Obedient movement during the campaign was absent during the screening, is it that they are typical politicians and went back to their elements?
No! It is a democracy and LP representatives are a very serious democratic minority. Even the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that has the leadership of the minority is also weak.
The removal of fuel subsidy is still a major issue as it has led to an astronomic rise in the cost of living, what do you say about that?
The removal is reckless, unpatriotic and unconstitutional. It is tantamount to national economic sabotage. Apparently, Alhaji Tinubu removed the subsidy in slavish response to the recommendations of the World Bank. Alhaji Tinubu may be unaware that World Bank programmes and recommendations to Nigeria have all failed consistently, without exception since the last 40 years. The removal of the same subsidy previously in 2016 failed as we predicted. In December 2016, Vice-President Osinbajo said, “The downstream sector has been deregulated with the elimination of petroleum subsidy. This policy has removed from government, a burden of not less than N15.4bn monthly”. Even with the 2016 experience, the World Bank came back again to the same “remove fuel subsidy” chorus. It seems the World Bank does not understand the hyper-inflationary ‘price cyclone’ associated with increasing the price of imported fuel.
Apparently, lazy World Bank “researchers” simply copy generic neo-liberal templates and recommend them inappropriately to Nigeria. The home-made economic plan of the Gen Sani Abacha era under the leadership of Prof. Sam Aluko showed much better results than all the inappropriate World Bank recommendations since the last forty years.
The World Bank correctly identified the problem as corruption in the system which according to the same World Bank includes smuggling subsidized imported petroleum products out of Nigeria. Logically, the World Bank should recommend that we address the issue of the massive corruption that it identified correctly, oddly, the World Bank jumped to its pre-determined neo-liberal conclusion that is very clearly catastrophic.
Fuel price has been increased about ten times from N20/l in 1999 to ~N570/l presently with catastrophic consequences each time it was increased. Yet, lazy World Bank researchers are repeating a remedy that has consistently failed over ten times? With the level of mass poverty in Nigeria, this increase in fuel price has made our situation even worse.
The permanent solution to the fuel subsidy situation is simple and has been agreed since the Alhaji Shagari administration. We must stop the wasteful importation of expensive petroleum products by increasing domestic refining capacity. To increase domestic refining capacity is simple, we merely maintain and upgrade the existing refineries and build more public or private refineries.
What is your take on the insecurity situation in the South East, how can we overcome this Monday sit-at-home that has crippled the economy of the people and geopolitical zone?
It is the lawless politics that we tolerate in Nigeria that led us to this situation. We deduce that the unknown gunmen are sponsored by the Imo State Government House as was confirmed by former Governor Rochas Okorocha. Recently Mujahid Asari Dokubo confirmed that his militia worked for the government in Imo State. Please remember that Charly Boy had published that Asari Dokubo’s terrorists were recently overpowered by ordinary local vigilantes in Ogbaru.
The sit-at-home was never a good idea. It can be overcome with multi-dimensional actions that will include advocacy, intelligence, security operations and political actions like the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in line with the court judgement.
Do you believe that the release of Nnamdi Kanu would bring peace to the South East?
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu should be released immediately in line with the court judgement that found him innocent. The prosecution failed to prove any crime against him. We had insisted that his extra-ordinary rendition was against international law. The unfair treatment of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu confirms his allegations of discrimination and injustice against the illegitimate regimes in Nigeria.
What do you make of the coup in Niger Republic, and how do you see the sanctions Nigeria has imposed on supporters of the military junta?
The ousted government of Muhammed Bazoum was very ineffective and unpopular. The coup leaders have the support of the overwhelming majority of their people. So, if we apply the fundamental principle of democracy, the coup may be democratic. Yes. Democracy is the rule of the people so, if the people want a coup, then the coup is democratic. Using Cicero’s supreme legal principle, ‘Salus populi suprema lex esto’, translated as, ‘the health of the people is the supreme law’”, then the coup is justified. Also, using the United Nations (UN) principle of the right of a people to self-determination, the coup is also justified. So, the sanctions imposed on the supporters of the military regime are unnecessary and self-defeating to the extent that they alienate Nigeria and Nigerians from our neighbours, the people of the Niger republic.
The Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS initially explored military action against the military regime in Niger Republic but has now resolved to dialogue, what do you think is the best approach?
The authorities of Heads of State and government of ECOWAS have no such authority or mandate. The Senate of Nigeria already opposed military action. ECOWAS must respect the principle of non-interference which states that, sovereign states shall not intervene in each other’s internal affairs. Our experience in ECOMOG indicates that Nigeria alone will contribute over 70 per cent of funds and soldiers to fight the war. Military action is undemocratic and against Nigerian and international laws. We must use diplomacy.
What do you think would be the possible repercussions for Nigeria considering the contiguity of Nigeria and Niger Republic?
There would be several. There would be loss of lives of both soldiers and civilians. There would be destruction of infrastructure and property. There would be colossal economic loss. There would be loss of regional influence. There would be increasing number of internally displaced persons and there would be retaliation against Nigerians living in many countries in Africa.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo would play significant role in mediating between all the parties in the Niger Republic crisis. He has the name, the experience, the education, the intelligence and the contacts to get ECOWAS, France, USA and the Niger Republic military to agree to peace.
Unfortunately, the Alhaji Tinubu group may not wish to beg for his help because of their illegitimacy issue. The Tinubu team led by Alhaji Abdulsalami Abubakar was not honoured in Niger republic.
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