By Ehi Ekhator
Buhari was a great man, he meant well for the country, he struggled to become the President of Nigeria after contesting four times but as it was expected, Nigeria killed President Muhammadu Buhari before his time.
Before the Presidential election, the 72 years old man was brimming with thoughts. He was the one seeing the amusement from an outer perspective, he had the key, he visualized, anticipated and proffer solution from the solace of his room, while his party, All Progressives Congress were singing tunes of distress for the country, storing the fault of the issue on the head of the previous President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who hailed from Niger Delta locale of the nation.
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Ekiti State Government has described as falsehood taken to the ridiculous level, claim by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State that the Federal Government had refunded N22bn to the Governor Ayodele Fayose led government on federal government roads construction, saying; “Ekiti State Government is being owed a sum of N12, 220,513,024.08 as at today.”
In a statement issued on Wednesday, by Special Assistant to the governor on Public Communications, Lere Olayinka, the government said; “Between 2004 and 2014, Ekiti State government spent a sum of N15, 720,513,024.08 on construction and rehabilitation of federal roads in the State, out of which N3.5bn was refunded.”
The government said N1.5bn was refunded in November 2004 while N2bn was refunded in December 2007.
The statement read; “Our attention has been drawn to the misinformation by the APC concerning refund of money spent on federal roads by the Ekiti State government, and we wish to state the Ayodele
Fayose-led government has not received any refund from the federal government.
“In actual fact, to date, the total amount spent on federal roads is N15.7bn and we wonder how the federal government could have paid Ekiti State N22bn when N15.7bn was spent and N3.5bn was refunded in 2004 and 2007, leaving N12.2bn unpaid.
“In November 2004, dualisation of 6.7km Ado township road was awarded for N1.5bn, in November 2005; extension of the dualisation of 8.075km Ado –Ikere was awarded for N1.3bn, construction of 2.1km Ido-Otun-Kwara State border was awarded in January 2007 for N1.7bn and dualisation of 19.3km Ado-Iworoko-Ifaki road was awarded for N7.4bn by the Segun Oni’s government while the Kayode Fayemi-led government increased it to N11bn.
“In November 2011, Fayemi-led government awarded 1.65km Fajuyi-Teaching Hospital road for N447.5m, 4.9km Ojumose-Basiri/Police Hqs-Iyin road for N1.5bn, dualisation of 0.8km Old Garrage-Ojumose road for N1.03bn, 13km Old Garrage-Ado-Ikere road for N2.4bn and construction and rehabilitation of 11.3km Ikere-Ondo State Boundary road for N9.2bn.
“Total cost of federal roads projects embarked on by the State government is N30.1bn, out of which N15.7bn had already been paid to contractors. Out of this N15.7bn already expended by the State government, N3.5bn was refunded by the federal government, leaving N12.2bn unpaid till date.
“Instructively, the APC government of Fayemi paid a sum of N1.4bn to China Railway Engineering Nigeria Limited on the Ikere-Ondo State Boundary road project. No work was done to justify the N1.4bn paid and anyone who intends to find out can simply visit the site.
“Also, of all the road projects, only the dualisation of Ado Township road awarded by the Fayose-led government in 2004 and the Ado-Iworoko-Ifaki road was approved by the federal government. All the
federal roads projects done by the APC government of Fayemi did not get federal government approval.”
Fellow Nigerians, please permit me to say right away that the ways of politicians are never that of ordinary mortals. Otherwise, we would not have found ourselves in the present peculiar mess which culminated in the virtual fiasco at the National Assembly, last Tuesday, June 9, 2015. The emergence of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as Senate President has ignited an unprecedented conundrum in the Upper Legislative chamber for several reasons known and unknown to the general public. What is clear is that it was a high-wired game of political chess which caught even the most politically-savvy members of our society napping. It is a tale full of sound and fury but signifying nothing but plenty of intrigues and abracadabra.
But it wasn’t as if the outcome of that combustive election had not been predicted and foretold. The platform had been provided by the inability of the amalgamation of different political parties that made up the All Progressives Congress (APC) to enter into a prenuptial agreement, prior to sealing the union, as to how to share power then and in the future. It was similarly tantamount to a polygamist failing to prepare a comprehensive Will ahead of his death and then suddenly dropping dead intestate. The hullabaloo would naturally reverberate across the seas and to far-flung places.
The APC had managed its multi-faceted marriage well pre-2015 elections to the admiration and adulation of most Nigerians who had expected the unification to be scattered to the winds after the primaries that produced General Muhammadu Buhari as the APC flag-bearer. But, mercifully, the cracks were ably glued and even solidly cemented as the Presidential aspirants came together in an atmosphere of uncommon maturity and vowed to work jointly with their Party’s candidate. Such camaraderie was seen as indication of a new political order and remarkable sagacity in our clime. It was one of the reasons many Nigerian first time voters got connected to the change mantra of the APC and gave their unqualified support to an opposition party that was fighting for a life of its own.
Against all odds, including intimidation, manipulations and near-bastardisation of the electoral process, Nigerians went out with renewed determination to exercise their voting rights and stood stoutly to monitor and protect their votes with anything and everything. The burden of expectation would soon manifest its ugly head after the monumental victory. I had written articles about this and in particular the inherent danger of ascribing talismanic powers to President Buhari and his team. Unknown to us, this was going to be the least of the problems of APC. The lurking danger would turn out to come surreptitiously from a different and unexpected direction, in this case, power-sharing formula.
The CPC had succeeded in producing the President while the ACN got the Vice Presidential slot. The third and very influential bride was the New PDP. A not too distant party in the wedding party was the ANPP. APGA also played the role of bridesmaid. One would have assumed the New PDP would get a sizable chunk of the vast estate from the deal but this was not the case. Outsiders like us had warned about the danger of not taking good care of all interested parties in this holy matrimony. In fact, I had sermonised in my article titled Let’s Honour Our Heroes (Thisday, May 2, 2015) about the need to accommodate and compensate the New PDP in the arrangement without any prevarication whatsoever:
“The first point to note is that APC must resolve all its power-sharing squabbles amicably and equitably. The greed factor must be jettisoned for fair-play. Every partner in the greatest political merger ever in Nigeria must be treated with respect and decorum. No attempt should be made to treat anyone as an inferior member of the union. Once that is taken into consideration and settled pronto, the party would enjoy the bliss it deserves after a most excruciating campaign. What kills most amalgamations is egocentricity. I already foresee a war of attrition if APC does not immediately halt the present macabre dance by some of its members. The Party and the Government that it will establish at executive and legislative level must not see itself as a coalition of Parties with separate ideologies and detrimental interests. Having fused into one it must behave as such and cater to the core doctrines embedded in its manifesto.
“Let me be more specific. The APC has been locked in a logjam over the zoning of the highest positions in the land. The way I see it is that CPC has already produced the number one slot. ACN has provided the number two. ANPP has secured the boss of all bosses the National Chairman of APC. The New PDP which came into the union with five formidable Governors and a multitude of National Assembly members is yet to get any position. This appears to me as grossly unfair and disproportionate. It is one of the reasons many onlookers and non-party members like me supported the candidacy of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki as Senate President. We must learn to honour our heroes. Dr Saraki with Governors Rotimi Amaechi and Rabiu Kwankwaso risked everything to make this Change Movement possible. They and their other colleagues took the bulls by the horns and took the battle to the doorsteps of PDP. It is unfathomable how anyone would say they don’t deserve any chunky positions in the grand alliance…”
Unfortunately, it seemed no one hearkened to my admonitions. Obviously, Saraki was vehemently opposed by some top guns and practically turned into a pariah within his own party. Yet he was the first to throw his hat into the ring for the position of Senate President. It seemed that other contestants were only put forward mainly to thwart Saraki and not because of the added value that they would bring to nation building. Without any fear of contradictions, Dr Saraki is one of the most cosmopolitan politicians in Nigeria today. He is in the league of the El-Rufais, Donald Dukes, Babatunde Fasholas, Rotimi Amaechis, Adams Oshiomholes, Kayode Fayemis, Pat Utomis, Godswill Akpabios, Rabiu Kwankwasos, Tanko Al Makuras, Ibikunle Amosuns, Abiola Ajimobis, Waziri Tambuwals and many others who have shown enough promise of a greater Nigeria. I will be proud to showcase a Saraki in the gathering of world leaders and wondered how anyone would seek to suppress the obvious potentials of such an urbane and confident politician.
I followed the shenanigans that ensued with rapt attention and keen interest. Every obstacle was placed in Saraki’s path to make sure he did not emerge as the winning candidate for the post of Senate President. Feeling rejected and dejected, but nevertheless determined to succeed, he must have turned to his former friends at PDP for support. At any rate, it should have been obvious to any discerning mind that it would be difficult to win the election without the co-operation of PDP Senators. The numerical strength of the PDP, with more than 40% of the Senators, made this a matter of stark fact. Since it did not appear some powerful members of his party favoured him, Saraki was buoyed by the support that he would get from the PDP. This was the beginning of the chaos that would explode and engulf the House of APC.
What happened when the APC leadership decided to shoot itself in the foot by summoning a Party conference with the President at the same time the Senate was being inaugurated is now the subject of intense speculation as to who, how, and why? What is clear is that this opening gambit played spectacularly into the hands of the Saraki faction. Call it what you want, a coup, double cross, ambush, outflanking, outsmarting, or any other nomenclature; this was surely a great military strategy at work. It is interesting that some of those in the forefront of the denouement are all military, from Senator David Mark to President Buhari. The deft move cut the opponents dead in their tracks. Whislt they were scurrying back to the Senate, having been left in the lurch by a President who had earlier stated in no uncertain terms that he was not going to interfere in the matter, Senator Saraki was being returned unopposed as Senate President by 57 Senators elect out of 108.
The PDP which had co-operated in securing the Senate Presidency for one of their former colleagues suddenly saw a wind of opportunity as there were still not enough APC members to elect a Deputy Senate President from the ranks of APC. Seizing the moment they immediately put up Senator Ike Ekweremadu as thier candidate for Deputy Senate President. He duly won. I believe there was nothing Saraki could have done about this even if many feel he should have waited for his late-coming colleagues. APC simply did not have the numbers at the time and there is nothing in the Constitution stopping the PDP from doing this.
Indeed, given the disunity in the APC it is a wonder that PDP did not decide to go for the Senate Presidency itself. With its block of 49 solid votes it would only take Senators Lawan or Saraki to split the APC vote for a PDP candidate to win by default. There would have been nothing wrong with this, as the Constitution does not stipulate that it is the sole prerogative of the ruling party to present the Senate President or indeed the Deputy Senate President.
There is no doubt that the Constitution expects some sort of democratic input into the selection of the Senate President and his Deputy. It envisages that all shades represented in the Senate must participate in this process. If it wanted only the majority party to present a candidate or candidates it would have said so. In any event this country had just come from witnessing the glorious feeling of what true democracy can bring about. Why should APC which is the prime beneficiary of that spirit of democracy seek to egregiously deprive one of its own from engaging or enjoying this kind of spirit?
It is also instructive that ACN, one of the integral parties of the APC spearheaded the PDP revolt which led to His Excellency Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State becoming Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011 over Honourable Mulikat Adeola who was the anointed candidate of the PDP. PDP cried foul at the time but APC blew the trumpet of democracy and the constitutional right of members to elect their leader. The PDP realising the truism in this position sheathed their swords and embraced Tambuwal thereafter. The Party closed ranks and worked together. It is not clear what the difference is now and why APC should be complaining when what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. What goes round comes round. For PDP it was certainly payback time. And they did so real good. At least, APC should have pretended that it was not pained at all. After-all, our dear Brother, Tambuwal remained The Speaker to the very end despite picking the gubernatorial mandate of APC and PDP bore its anguish with equanimity.
Now APC must, like PDP in 2011, must close ranks and move forward. It is gratifying that the number one father of the nation and the quintessential leader of APC, President Buhari, immediately congratulated the new leaders of the National Assembly and pledged to work with them. Other national leaders including the Chairman of the APC, Dr John Oyegun, and the projected Chairman of the Party’s Board of Trustees, former Vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, also did the same. This is what Nigerians need in this climate of change and I know that my dear brother and Publicity Secretary of the Party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed would now have the chance to join his fellow Kwarans in jubilating a rare feat by Oloye Saraki.
I must again single out for praise Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the stoic way he has handled the smashing of his carefully laid plans. Like the statesman that he is, Asiwaju has refrained from pouring oil onto the raging fire even though he is obviously piqued and miffed. That is as it should be. At the end of the day it is Nigeria’s interest that is paramount and not personal interests. Tinubu has the culture of bowing to superior logic and I’m he has risen above unproductive altercations. I’m looking forward to seeing that special photograph of reuniting with his dear Aburo in the next few days. Nobody wants a divided ruling party because that cannot augur well for the much sought progress that the country and its long-suffering citizens are clamouring for.
These are momentous times for Nigeria. Everyone agrees that Dr Bukola Saraki has the qualities for making a good Senate President who will work in grand collaboration with the Executive led by President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the rot in our polity. Like the President, Saraki wanted this position and worked for it. He is not a reluctant candidate who simply contested or was drafted for the sake of it. The problem he faces currently is the strong suspicion that he may enter the Presidential race in 2019. We shall elaborate more on this speculation, sooner than later.
But whether true or false, this is no justification for throwing away this charming baby with the bathwater. God bless President Buhari for dousing this volatile tension.
In a YouTube video reviewed by SaharaReporters of this past Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Bakare added that “the cause was exhaustion: too much work, too much people’s pressure.”
Pastor Bakare told members of his church this past Sunday that “I was discharged on Wednesday with a clean bill of health.”
In a YouTube video reviewed by SaharaReporters of this past Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Bakare added that “the cause was exhaustion: too much work, too much people’s pressure.”
He also said that, “That I had not been taking enough water. So I am on compulsory medication of two liters of water per day.”
Pastor Bakare explained that his exhaustion was caused in part because of his travels between Lagos, Abuja, London, and Atlanta, US. He also stated that he ignored the warning signs in the days leading to his collapse.
Pastor Bakare also recalled premonition he had during a dream. He described that a humungous giant in Igbo clothing chased and mocked him.
He said one “afternoon I had a dream. It was an unusual dream. I saw a ring on my little finger. I don’t wear two rings, I only wear one. I looked up and coming from my left side was an unusual giant I’d never seen before. It was unusually humongous and wore an Igbo attire. It was a giant and it was coming towards me. All that I knew to do was raise the ring up. As soon as I raise it it laughed and went on. I returned.”
Pastor Bakare was not able to explain many more details of what the giant could mean or why it wore Igbo attire.
It has been difficult tracking Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo (former Governor of the Central Bank) since his bombshells before the general elections, but finally we tracked him down in his private library at his residence in Abuja on Friday, 5 th June, 2015. He seemed unwilling to say much, at least for now. But it was still vintage Soludo, and some of the issues he raised are explosive. He sees hope and opportunities for the new Government, even though he says his current engagements will not allow him to join the government on a full time basis, contrary to wide speculations. He says he can however freely offer advice to the government if needed. Soludo says: Nigeria needs a Job Manifesto, and that solid minerals and agriculture can’t be relied upon for job creation; Argues that a sustainable change will not occur without a new constitution; says the clamour for zoning and sharing of public offices is an elite power game which has little to do with the masses and therefore misplaced; believes the argument for local government autonomy is anti-federalism; is waiting for the action plan from the new government before joining the debate on the agenda; says his public spat with Okonjo-Iweala was unfortunate; raises questions about the proposal by CBN governor on selling government equity stakes in oil for immediate revenue as well as the new NBS data on unemployment; etc.
The full interview below is his interaction with us at the Premium Times. Read on….
PT: Thank you sir for granting me this audience. You promised not to keep quiet again and to ask more questions about the running of the economy after elections but you seem to have been very quiet since the elections. Can you now raise the questions?
Soludo: Great to see you too! And I hope this will be a short interview please. Two quick points: The elections have come and gone but that was the easier part. The hard part now begins. Like most Nigerians, I am happy that Nigeria made history with the election. On your question, No; there was no need to raise further questions for the outgone administration. President Jonathan raised the bar and set a new tone in his statesmanly acceptance of defeat. That was noble. Last month, the government admitted that they were borrowing since January to pay salaries. What more do you want me to say? The two articles I wrote in January and February (which Vanguard newspaper still posts on its website as ‘The Soludo Debate’) remain living documents and raised some of the salient questions, some of which may be bold markers for the new government. Our focus should be on the future and the new government.
PT: How is your relationship with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala now?
Soludo: Why do you ask? Of course, she is and will always be my dear elder sister and Madam; someone I deeply respect. We may not always agree, especially on public policy. The public spat was unfortunate. She felt she had an obligation to defend her government but she did so in a manner that I also felt an obligation to respond in equal measure. But all that is now history. There is nothing personal. Now without the encumbrances of government and its pressures, I look forward to our returning to the good old days in our personal relationship.
PT: The economy is really bad; falling oil price, dwindling revenue, debt, inflation, unemployment, collapsed Naira, etc. Where does President Buhari start from?
Soludo: I don’t envy President Buhari and his team. His government will preside over the transition to a post-oil economy, and it won’t be a tea party. If Buhari works 8 hours a day, he last less than 7,500 hours left to bring about change in his first term in office or less than 9,700 if he works 12 hours a day, with three substantive annual budgets to go before the next elections. The clock is ticking already. But the Rescue, Stabilize, and Transform (RST) Plan requires a 24 by 7 operation. There must be something in the President’s natal chart that keeps bringing him to govern us just when things are in shambles. But I see hope; I see opportunities. The president and his team have a historic opportunity to create a new Nigeria without oil; a Nigeria powered by competition and compassion. Fortuitously Nigeria’s centenary was last year, 2014. This year marks the beginning of the next 100 years. President Buhari and the new crop of elected officers at all levels must lay the foundation for the next Nigeria; a re-engineered Nigeria with the structures and incentives to move from cake-sharing or consumption to cake-baking or production. Old thinking and ways of doing things won’t work. But an attempt to drive change from Abuja will fail. It will be akin to trying to clap with one hand. A coordinated national (not federal) response is required.
On your specific question as to where President Buhari should begin, let me say that I don’t want to join the new industry in town which is ‘agenda setting’. Everyone is grabbing the microphone to ‘set agenda’. That’s ok. I am aware that the transition committee is working hard on an agenda, and I believe that the committee is made up of eminent Nigerians. For me, let us wait for them to unveil their action plan and we would have something to comment upon or contribute to. I am aware that the African Heritage Institution (Afriheritage) is planning a session focused on the agenda after it is announced. So, I won’t join this fashion parade of the day. Not yet.
PT: Let me be more specific. With the terrible condition of the economy, and the high expectations of Nigerians on the new government, what practical steps should Buhari take to create jobs speedily?
Soludo: I told you I do not want to discuss specifics now. For sure, job creation should be the focus of the new post-oil economy. Nigeria certainly needs a Job Manifesto, with a target of 8 – 12 million jobs over the next four years. This is easier said than done. We are diversifying the economy by-passing the manufacturing/industrial sector to the tertiary sector (services). Creating value-adding jobs in such an economy with one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world will task our creativity to the limit. The agenda will require a kind of coordination between the federal and state governments in a manner never seen before. Luckily the APC states are in majority and I hope their party will rein them in. I have read some newspaper reports that solid minerals sector and agriculture will be the new kids on the block to mint the jobs. That won’t happen! At least not in the manner it is being romanticised about. They would have very limited impacts on job creation over the next four years, and over the long-run agricultural transformation will actually reduce jobs. The prospects of the solid mineral sector will depend on the policy framework and even legislation, the dynamics of commodity prices especially given the apparent end of the commodity super cycle, and the nature of forward and backward integration with the rest of the industrial structure. Anyway, let us wait for government’s agenda before we can comment, please.
PT: In your previous answer you alluded to changing the structures of Nigeria. What should President Buhari do with the report of the recent national conference?
Soludo: It is up to him to decide what to do with the report. A fundamental point however is that you can’t create the new Nigeria, a post-oil competitive economy without fundamentally altering the existing constitution. The current constitution and the political-governance structures created by it are designed to share and consume the oil rent. A system designed for consumption cannot become efficient for production. Ours is a dysfunctional unitary-federalism, with a queer fiscal federalism and it won’t go too far. The federating units were created by the central government; it also created the local governments. Every month, both the governors and their local government chairmen are supposed to beseech Abuja to collect their allocations, each supposedly with powers to do whatever they like with the allocations. As oil stumbles, the fiscal viability of these creations is coming into question. Suddenly, states and LGAs designed to collect and spend oil money will be required to produce and create wealth to survive. We will see how the old order will give rise to the new without some creative destruction. The problem with the structure is that those who benefit most from it are required to dismantle it— the incentives are incompatible. We need to study the UAE (United Arab Emirates) model of competitive federalism—that created the incentives for Dubai and other prosperous non-oil regions to emerge. I have written a lot on this subject, and we can talk about this the whole day. The point is that APC cannot deliver sustainable change to Nigeria if it does not go to the roots, and effect systemic change. Tinkering at the margins will amount to papering over a cracked wall.
PT: That reminds me of the ongoing debate about local government autonomy and joint account with the states. Shouldn’t the local governments be autonomous?
Soludo: Autonomy from who? I know that it makes for our emotional satisfaction to “deal with the state governors” and let the LGAs have ‘autonomy’— but only in the sense of getting their “allocation” directly and unhindered by state governments but with no incentive-sanctions regime that ties such grants to certain productivity and fiscal viability criteria. The mistaken belief is that such autonomy will ensure that resources get to the ‘grassroots’. It is a funny argument which proceeds from the old model of ‘sharing the cake’. We must decide whether we want a federal or a unitary system; not both at the same time. Are the states the federating units or both states and local governments? Funny enough the same constitution gives the state assemblies the power to create local governments and maintain oversight over them. At the same time, the constitution lists the LGAs created by the military as the ones to collect “allocations” from the Federation Account. I want to see examples of federal systems in the world where the local governments directly receive statutory allocations from the federal government and with statutory powers to spend as they wish without performance-based criteria attached to such receipts. The mind-set is rooted in the past, but the problems are unfolding in the future. When it comes to incentives and sanctions regime for creating prosperity and accountability, our current constitution is a funny document. It is even worse for effective macroeconomic management.
PT: The contest is on for zoning and sharing of political offices, and there are fears of marginalization by people from the south east and south south because of their poor support for President Buhari and APC during the elections. How should Buhari assuage the fears of these zones?
Soludo: You have raised many issues at the same time. First, given the peculiar manner the election was done in the two zones, it is difficult to know exactly how the people voted. There is no question that a majority of people in the two zones preferred Jonathan but we know what happened during the Presidential-national assembly election. Prof. Jega and INEC did a great job but we still have a very long way to go. Second, the Constitution of Nigeria creates an absurdity in the name of federal character whereby a minister must come from every state. So, states in the south east and south south must have ministers in the federal cabinet. Third, and more substantively, I believe that the clamour for offices is simply a power game by the elite, which has only a symbolic or emotional significance to the masses. Yes, for some reasons, people like to see someone that shares their interests or attributes in government—it has a feel good factor. But if occupation of such office has any personal benefits, it is largely to the occupant of the office and his friends and family.
Our recent history has shown that it hardly matters where the occupant of a particular position comes from. I am not sure how the welfare of Ota/Ogun people changed because Obasanjo was president of Nigeria, or how the man in the street of Katsina or Otuoke/Bayelsa prospered more than others simply because their son became president. The south east voted massively for ‘one of their own’ in 2011 as president, and also had Secretary to Government, Deputy Senate president, Deputy Speaker, Minister of Finance and coordinating minister of economy and a coterie of other appointments. Yet, the zone had the least capital expenditure in the five year presidency, and there is hardly any motorable federal highway in the south east. For me, this bickering for sharing of positions is an elite game for their personal rather than national considerations. What the ordinary Nigerians want are institutionalized processes to guarantee their security and prosperity. They want services and don’t care who gives it to them. Our federal cabinet is nothing but a miniature United Nations whereby each minister represents his or her state but no one represents Nigeria. At this critical crisis moment, perhaps what Nigeria needs is something akin to selecting the best 11 for our national football team: no one cares which state or zone they come from; everyone wants Nigeria to come home with the cup.
PT: Talking about positions in the government, there are rumours in town, especially on social media and even in some newspapers that you are being tipped to serve in the cabinet of the current government. Are you likely to serve in the government or am I speaking with the prospective Finance Minister as speculated?
Soludo: Nigerians and their rumours! I am glad you said they are rumours and such rumours are normal. For sure, I wish the new government success and for the sake of Nigeria, everyone must contribute to assist President Buhari succeed. I will contribute in whatever way I can. However, everyone can’t sit in government in order to serve: some will be there on full time basis while others can contribute from outside. For me personally and at this point in time, I am not disposed or available for full time public service now; perhaps in the future it could happen, but not now. For now, my hands are full with several other experiments I am involved with (especially abroad) in the private sector, charity, think-tanks, and the international community. I am part of a major initiative in Africa’s mining and solid minerals sector, and this takes me through several African countries, etc. I am having great fun exploring totally new vistas of opportunity that are central to Africa’s great leap in the 21st century. I read that President Buhari will give priority to solid minerals. We can provide free advisory services and perhaps assist to mobilize investment in the sector or in any other areas if our advice is needed. In effect, there are several ways we can assist the government to succeed but not necessarily to take up full time appointment. No, not now!
PT: So, who and who would you recommend to be part of the best 11 in the cabinet?
Soludo: There are many eminent Nigerians who are not only bold, critical thinkers but also with high execution capacity that the president can choose from. I wish him and his team good luck.
PT: Do you agree with the suggestion of the current CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, that Nigeria should sell off its oil stakes and retain say, 25% only?
Soludo: I won’t comment on it in detail until I read the study. From what is reported in the newspapers so far, I will surely have many questions and I have hinted the Governor on this.
PT: Some CBN staff are currently being tried for alleged fraud regarding circulation of old notes, and the EFCC says this has been on for years – apparently more people may have been involved. Were you able to deal with that kind of fraud when you were in charge?
Soludo: First and foremost, I can’t imagine how such a fraud could be executed successfully given the architecture of controls and security at the CBN. Such would require the collusion of tens of persons from different departments and agencies, including law enforcement agencies and commercial banks. It is very unlikely to happen without someone blowing the whistle or leakage of information. I am particularly happy therefore that it was the CBN that discovered the fraud and reported to the law enforcement agencies. This is the important point.
PT: Years after leaving the CBN, give us your assessment of the bank under your successors.
Soludo: I still reserve my comments for now. When I was in office, I made it a policy never to comment on my predecessors, and after I left office I also insisted on a self-imposed five year gag order not to comment on my successor. Several times I was under immense pressure to break it but I thank God that I kept to it. The five year ban is now over, but it is not yet time to comment.
PT: The National Bureau of Statistics recently came up with a revised methodology for calculating unemployment, with the claim that unemployment now stands at about 6%. Are you as concerned as many Nigerians who believe that claim is baseless?
Soludo: Integrity of our national statistics is a very serious issue. I don’t comment on statistics without serious scrutiny. Having not had a chance to thoroughly examine the reviewed methodology, I will not comment on its veracity or appropriateness. It is one thing to have a new methodology, it is yet another to have a comprehensive, credible labour market survey. I will need information on these two parts to make informed judgment. Already, the NBS/past government have created the baseline data for the performance evaluation of the Buhari administration in the areas of poverty and unemployment. According to them, unemployment is about 6% while poverty is about 32%. If true, then the Buhari government is challenged to beat these numbers. The government must support NBS to be independent and do its job without interference.
Source: Premium Times
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has congratulated the newly elected leaders of the National Assembly, admonishing them to see their elections beyond the narrow interests of respective political parties.
The former Vice President in a press statement issued by his media office on Tuesday, noted that with the elections of its presiding officers, the 8th National Assembly should swing to work and put the overall national interest beyond the personal political interests of its members.
Atiku said that with the election of its presiding officers, the 8th National Assembly has prepared the ground work for a full legislative business.
While congratulating the new leaders of the parliament on their election, Atiku reminded every member of both the Senate and the House of Representatives of their responsibilities to their constituents, which, he said, is to put national interest before their individual political interest.
Irrespective of the political mix through which the presiding officers emerged, he noted, the 8th National Assembly should never lose focus of its role as a partner in progress with the other arms of government, especially the executive arm.
“The Nigerian people look up to the new National Assembly to work with the executive arm in finding solutions to the problems of insecurity, poverty, illiteracy and joblessness in the country. Their election is indeed a call to duty, and it is a call for which they cannot afford to fail the nation.”