Senator (chief) Ighoyota Amori is a frontline politician and a leader of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State; a two-time commissioner and Political Adviser in the state. In this interview with Daily Watch Editorial team in Warri, he said that the emergence of the new National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus was very significant to the democratic evolution of the Nigerian State; that reinventing Nigeria for peace and justice would require the restructuring of the country and practice of true federalism; that the plan by the Buhari led APC administration to fund the Boko Haram insurgency with the sum of 1 billion from the Excess crude Account (ECA) is a scam; that the administration of President Buhari should focus on fulfilling its electioneering promises to Nigeria instead of clamping down on its perceived political enemies, among other sundry issues.
How do you see the emergence of the newly elected National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus? Do you concur to his emergence?
I concur 100% to the emergence of the new National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus. His emergence as the new henchman of PDP on December 9, 2017, was very significant to the democratic evolution of the Nigeria State. As a matter of fact, the transparent, fair and orderly conduct of the PDP national convention that ushered in the new national leadership of the party was a major blow to the quest of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to continue to clinch to power come 2019. I say this because the elective convention of the party was a make or mar one. It was so crucial that if the party had not gotten it right, the APC would have been celebrating its victory ahead of 2019 general elections particularly that of the president.
Prince Secondus in the saddle means that the APC should be preparing to vacate Aso rock come 2019. He is someone I can describe as a native of PDP and a stabilizing force as PDP prepares for the onslaught in 2019. Secondus has demonstrated immense commitment and sacrifice to the growth and stability of the party. Is character of person is what the PDP need to reposition and reengineer it to take over power come 2019. I congratulate him and his entire executive members on their victory at the convention and plead with all genuine PDP faithful to give them the needed support to succeed in the onerous ahead.
What are the indices to show that PDP is prepared to take over power from APC in 2019?
The first and most important index is the ability of the PDP at the national level to overcome the leadership tussle that would have resulted in the party going into extinction. The protracted legal battle over who is the authentic national chairman of the PDP fuelled by the APC was intended to weaken the solid foundation of the party to continue to provide the needed opposition and put up a good fight in 2019 general elections.
Added to the judicial victory regarding the national chairmanship position is the recent successful conduct of the party’s national convention. With the prolonged leadership problem, many Nigerians particularly those in the APC did not anticipate that PDP would be able to have a successful convention. In fact, days to the convention when it became apparent that the party would witness a peaceful conduct of her convention, certain plots were allegedly orchestrated by some overzealous persons in the present corridor of power to either discredit the convention or scuttle arrangements to ensure its success.
Don’t you think that Nigeria will be worse off if Buhari gets second term?
It is not about me thinking. It is about the current realities in the country and what Nigerians are experiencing. No Nigerian or someone living in the country for the past six years need a soothsayer to tell him or her that there is a big wall of difference in the economic situation under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan led PDP administration and the existing APC administration under President Muhammadu Buhari. The economic hardship in the country under Buhari is unprecedented. It is worse because both the rich and poor are complaining. Big and small businesses are closing down and thousands of jobs have been lost.
Whatever the excuses being adduced by the Buhari administration for the economic woes, most Nigerians are of the view that economic failure is synonymous with the name Buhari. In fact, some view the situation now as a reincarnation of the Buhari military regime of 1983 to 1985, when pot of soup was being stolen even while still on top of the stove or fire. With the two opportunities he has had to govern the country, Nigeria was worse off. And should he get another term as a civilian president, the situation would not be different, just as a Leopard cannot change its skin.
Where do you stand on this and how do we reinvent a new Nigeria built on peace and justice?
Reinventing Nigeria for peace and justice to me would require the restructuring of the country and practice of true federalism. The concentration of power at the centre has hampered the growth and development of the country. States are not competing amongst themselves because every month the respective State governments go to the federal government to collect revenue allocation, more than ninety percent which is gotten from a section of the country, the Niger Delta region. Power should be devolved and States made to generate their revenue and remit or pay tax to the federal government as it applies in the United States which the country copied the concept of true federalism.
Also, the concept of federal character needs to reviewed or abolished as its practice is skewed in favour of a particular section of the country. The implementation of the federal character policy has retarded the development of the country, as scholarship, merit and hard work are thrown overboard. A situation whereby different cut-off marks are set for students based on their geopolitical zones cannot build a nation that is sound educationally. Same federal character is applied for employment into federal civil service and other aspects of the national life of the country. Restructuring of the country is long overdue as the lopsided nature of the country cannot engender peace and justice.
Dogara once said that: “fiscal indiscipline is as grievous a problem as corruption”. Do you concur with him?
Absolutely correct. It is corruption for critical areas in a budget that would benefit Nigerians are underfunded while areas of interest for a few get the needed approvals and funding. It is fiscal indiscipline for millions of Nigerians to be in abject yet the government of the day is planning to spend a staggering amount to fight Boko Haram insurgency.
The APC government says it is fighting corruption yet answers are not being provided regarding some irregularities surrounding the monies that are being recovered. When the government of the day fails to implement up to half of its annual budget, some Nigerians would rather be blind to it because they belong to the party in power. What has happened to the East-West road?
And don’t you think the federal Government and States are causing hyper-inflation and killing business with multiple taxes?
True federalism is the way to go for the country to achieve meaningful growth and development. There are a lot of things that federal government is handling that ought to be within the purview of the State governments. Some State government are reconstructing and rehabilitating federal roads, buying vehicles and other assistance to the Nigeria Police and so on.
And with sharp decline in the monthly allocation to States, some of the State governors are now looking at areas they improve on their Internally Generated Revenue, IGR. This is one main reason the multiple taxes are now being noticed. Sincerely, under the prevailing economic realities in the country, the citizens cannot the financial burdens of both governments. They should harmonise on the existing taxes so that they do no continue to impact negatively on the well being of the citizenry.
How do you see to the federal Government’s plan to spend $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight Boko Haram insurgency?
The plan by the Buhari led APC administration to fund Boko Haram insurgency is a scam. I view it as a calculated ploy by the administration to stockpile huge sum of money to prosecute the 2019 general election. The plan is very ridiculous because the money in the Excess Crude Account does not belong to the federal government alone but to the entire component States in the Nigeria federation.
It amounts to fiscal indiscipline for the federal government to unilaterally decide to withdraw money from the Excess Crude Account to fund its programmes. Annually budgetary provisions are made for the federal, States and Local Governments based on the expected revenue from the sale of crude, which is the main source of revenue to the nation. For the federal government to plan to withdraw from the account to fight Boko Haram is like asking the States to also withdraw from it to tackle their own security challenges.
On the other hand, why is the federal government planning to withdraw such money for the Boko Haram insurgency that it says has been defeated ‘technically’? What happens to the annual budgetary provision to the military for the same purpose? When you look it critically, you see that there is no sincerity on the part of the federal government regarding the purpose for which it plans to withdraw such money from the Excess Crude Account.
Do you concur with Ex- president Goodluck Jonathan that: The ruling APC government had delivered more corruption than the promised change?
It is corruption for the APC government which promised that it will be fix the electricity problem of the country in six months, yet the power situation is now worse than what it was before they came to power. Those who are APC members who have been indicted for corruption have been shielded from prosecution. Whereas same government has flagrantly refused to obey court judgments in favour of some persons in the opposition PDP prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. A typical case in question is the continued detention of Col. Dasuki despite multiple court rulings granting him bail.
What about the payment of subsidy and current scarcity of fuel nationwide? The government promised to lower the cost of petrol that is now being sold above N200.
How do you think PDP can enthrone democratic best practices that would endear the party to the people?
The PDP has been evolving since it came to power in 1999. Note here that the development of any political party cannot be divorced from the citizenry. For me, PDP is a reflection of the Nigeria society. Nigerians make up the party.
Kudos needs to be given to the PDP for steering the mantle of leadership of the country for sixteen years. It is not easy. Just less than three years in power, signs of the possible disintegration of the APC before 2019 are daily manifesting. Some Nigerians have even started predicting that there will be no APC come 2019.
Successive PDP administrations over the years have demonstrated commitment and taken several efforts geared towards enthroning democratic best practices. Electoral reforms have been undertaken by past PDP administrations. Though not yet perfect, the introduction of Card Reader for conduct of elections was done by the Dr. Goodluck Jonathern PDP led administration. Towards the buildups to the 2019 general elections and the pressures on the ruling party to remove the then national chairman of INEC over perceived alliances with the then opposition APC, the administration did not succumbed to the pressures. The party did not resist nor deploy machineries to discredit the presidential election to pave the way for its annulment.
Less than a month ago, the PDP despite coming out from a prolonged leadership tussle that shuck its foundation, the party successfully conducted its national convention. This, the APC has been finding to do. And it is not unexpected that should the party go ahead to conduct its national convention the outcome might spell doom for the party.
In all, the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus would continue to be a party for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion. The party has set a standard which the APC is struggling to sustain.
Princr Uche Secondus, PDP National Chairman
How will you appraise various polices and reform of the federal government under Buhari for almost these three years of his administration? Are we on the right path towards economic recovery?
The way the administration said it has ‘technically’ defeated Boko Haram yet the insurgents are still raging in the North, is same way the administration has come to say, the country is out of recession without a practical recovery.
Today, Nigerians are groaning under the worst fuel scarcity to hit the country in a administration that boasted it will in the shortest time bring down the price of petrol as against the price they met it in 2015. Prices of goods and services have risen astronomically. The administration is not creating new jobs and crime wave is rising every day.
The facts speak volume of the poor performance of the federal government under Buhari. Like every other Nigerian who is experiencing the harsh economic situation reminiscence of what happened between 1983 and 1985, the policies and reform of this government if any, are yet to yield any result. As it stands, Nigeria cannot be said to be on the path economic recovery.
Looking at the challenges facing Nigeria, what would be your advice to president Buhari?
President Buhari and his APC led administration should settle down to govern Nigeria. More than two years after clinching power, the administration is still struggling to come to terms why they are in Aso Rock.
Buhari is fighting corruption will not put food on the tables of Nigerians. The administration should focus on fulfilling its electioneering promises to Nigerians instead of clamping down on its perceived political enemies. He should ticker with his economic team to achieve results. Buhari continually and patiently sort to become a democratically president. Now that he has achieved it, he should strive to prove to Nigerians that he is now better prepared for governance compared to when he was military head of State.
What is your impression of the current National Assembly led by Senator Saraki
The current National Assembly led by Senate President Bukola Saraki has lived up to expectation. The 8th National Assembly under Senator Saraki has a focus, proven to be independent and fearless in standing on the side of Nigerians.
Senator Saraki has provided leadership which accounts for the unity and oneness exiting amongst members. Several attempts to halt the continued smooth sail of the leadership of the House have been met with brick wall. Saraki has the wealth of political experience to move the National Assembly from being a puppet or stooge of the executive arm.
How would you conclude this interview?
It is going into three years of the life of this administration, and Nigerians can make a better assessment and judgment on the performance of the administration. Obviously, what Nigerians are presently passing through is certainly not what they bargained for. I think they have experienced it in a bitter way the effects of the wrong decision they took in 2015. They are now wiser I want to believe and they cannot afford to make the same mistake in 2019.
We can only continue to pray and hope for the best for our dear country Nigeria. North, East, South and West, home is still the best. And with a rebranded PDP under the stewardship of Prince Uche Secondus, Nigerians can boast of an alternative come 2019 general elections. It is my utmost prayer and wish that this ‘cup’ should pass over us as we prepare to celebrate Christmas and usher into the New Year 2018.