JONATHAN'S CABINET DOESN'T GIVE HOPE -CNPP SCRIBE
Secretary-General of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezeugwu, is of the opinion that the crop of ministers appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan may not add any value to his administration. According to him, most of the ministers were appointed on the basis of political patronage.
Could you assess the suitability or otherwise of the newly appointed ministers?
Well, some civil societies have been kicking against some of the nominees before they were confirmed ministers. Some of them have been tested and found wanting in the past. Normally, these ministers should be nominated based on their antecedents and where former ministers are re-called, it should be based on their performance in the previous government. Several groups, including their kinsmen, have kicked against them, because they believed that some of the ministers have nothing to show for the four years they were in the saddle in the ministries.
The president has no reason for re-nominating many of them, as he has done, because for the last one year, they didn't make any difference. What many of them do not understand is that once appointed as ministers, they are supposed to serve the country, not themselves and cronies. It is not good for this country and its people. Nevertheless, there are good ones among them.
But many people applauded the decision to bring back the bulk of them from last cabinet.
I don't agree with those who are of the opinion that he should stick with those from the old cabinet, because most of them did not do well. If the president had ensured that technocrats, like Okonjo-Iweala, Obi Ezekwesili, Dr. Agary Koripamo, Godknows Igali and several others are in his cabinet, we would move forward. These are professionals in their own right and would perform. Unfortunately, some of these names were not considered.
You said some ministers performed poorly in the past and yet were called back. Can you be particular?
Well, if you look at the ministry of works, the minister of the FCT and others, you will discover that they didn't do anything worthy of a come-back. That is why some of us are kicking against their return. But you see the technocrats that the president should have appointed were being campaigned against by selfish political jobbers. We in the CNPP believe the technocrats are our sure bet. They can do well and beyond that, strengthen the government of Goodluck Jonathan, but because, perhaps, he has been listening to a lot of sycophants and saboteurs, they have caused him to look away from these people.
Recently, it was announced that Godknows Igali was appointed chief of staff to the president, but in their 'wisdom' the presidency failed to announce his name. What is the president waiting for? These are people well known by Nigerians - there is no minister you appoint today, whose character is unknown to Nigerians. Dr. Koripamo Agary has been the permanent secretary for the ministry of labour and productivity, and she has been instrumental to the success of the government in the Niger Delta. That is how resourceful she is behind closed doors. What such a person can do when brought to the open can only be left to the imagination. Does it mean that anyone who has no 'lobbying power' cannot be a Minister?
You are saying the president listens to sycophants and lobbyists…?
Of course, there are no two-ways to that. Otherwise, the bulk of those who came back would not have found their way into the cabinet. They have nothing good in store for Nigerians. They are only concerned about themselves. They are swirling around the president, like dangerous currents and if he (the president) is not careful, his government will be booed at the end of four years.
It is said that during Olusegun Obasanjo's tenure, his wife was a strong influence, especially in forming his cabinet. Do you think same is happening here?
That is not new. No matter how strong a man is, his wife influences him to a great extent. Since the democratic dispensation started, the wives of our leaders have played some roles. Yar'Adua's wife influenced her husband mightily. Stella Obasanjo did same. Don't be surprised if Patience Goodluck is doing it. I think, she is more influential than the other two put together, no doubts about that.
Few weeks ago, the Police Force Headquarters was bombed. Recently, you escaped being kidnapped. What is your assessment of the security situation in the country?
It is unfortunate that the system we run in Nigeria is one in which no one takes blame for anything. Normally, people would say, 'for the lapses in the execution of my duties, I resign.' But no one does that here. If one third of what has been happening since the appointment of Ringim as the Inspector-General happens in another country, that police chief would have resigned.
You were almost kidnapped. What happened?
I had gone to Nsukka to wrapped up the burial of my mother. I was in the car of my friend when some young people laid siege to the road and tried to kidnap me. My friend was kidnapped. I just paid the ransom and he has been released. Within one month in Nsukka, there have been seven cases of kidnap. The state security and the police are all poorly equipped. How can security be assured? We are not even talking about the cases of armed robbery.
While traveling, you would encounter more than 20 police road-blocks, in a less than two killometre road distance, but they are just standing there, no communication gadget. If something goes wrong in point A, how can those in point B know? How can they chase criminals? Despite these ugly inadequacies, they have security votes. Terrible. We are just watching, because the situation will surely deteriorate if the government continues to be so complacent about it.
Everyone blames the police for poor performance, but shouldn't we be looking at the Federal Government failure to equip the policemen adequately?
Look, no matter how well equipped they are, if those who handle the equipment are badly trained and cannot think outside the box, nothing is worth the effort. Consider the IGP's warned 'Boko Haram.' In less than 24 hours after his spineless speech, they bombed his domain. That tells us a lot about his intelligence-gathering. He was aware of the poor tactics of the police, their poor equipping and rusty intelligence-gathering before he went on air to say the days Boko Haram were numbered. Now at least, he has learnt some things on when to talk and when not to talk.
There is this argument that government should extend amnesty to the notorious Boko-Haram sect. What is your take on this?
Before you grant amnesty, you must get to the root of the problem. The government cannot grant amnesty in a hurry; it is not time for that. They must get to the root of the matter. Another thing is, when you grant the 'Boko Haram' amnesty, and you continue to persecute a harmless group, like the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) it makes no sense. Till this moment, some members of the MASSOB are still being held for conducting peaceful demonstrations. No one can even tell where they are. Muzzling some groups and revering some will only create more problem.
Granting amnesty or not is not the issue. They should get to the root of the problems. After the agreement in Borno State, the police killed their leader, thus marking the beginning of fresh violence. The Federal Government has to find out what went wrong - these guys are human and they have grievances, this is what government should find out.
Do you think the government has capacity to contain the spate of violence in the country?
That is why I'm telling Mr. President to see to it that he looks at the direction of intelligent bureaucrats in Nigeria to advise him, not riff-raffs and sycophants. Appointing a minister is just a minute portion of the problem: what does the minister have to offer the people of Nigeria? I mentioned some people earlier, but they are not the only ones. There are millions of intelligent Nigerians who cannot be ministers, because they have no one to lobby for them. If President Goodluck means well for the country and want Nigerians to remember him for good, there are people he should bring into government to help Nigeria progress.
But do you think the solution to Nigeria's problem lies in the appointment of technocrats only?
No, no. More than that. The major problems are corruption and unemployment. We are talking about the minimum wage and the governors initially said they can't pay; yet each of them has a house full of advisers; some as much as 35 of them. What do these advisers do and how much do they take home?
These governors siphon billions of naira. All they are asked to do is pay civil servants with families a minimum of N18,000 and they are crying wolf. A governor has a security vote of about N6 billion. Senators and representative are in a league of their own. Still, the man who works from Monday to Friday is asking for N18,000, and they are saying no, yet after graduation from school, there is no employment.
Initially, President Yar'Adua declared his assets and some of his ministers followed suit. Goodluck should do same, so that his subordinates can toe his line. Also, we must have a credible person at the helm of affairs of the anti-corruption agencies.
You don't believe the governors don't have the money to pay the new wage?
As a Nigerian, will you believe them? How many workers do they have in their states, anyway? Consider the actions of Rochas Okorocha: how much did he cut off from the security votes, so as to bring free education to his state? Can't other governors copy that? If they sacrifice 10% of their security votes alone, is it too much? They have the money and they can pay. Any state governor who refuses to pay that N18,000 is a wicked soul; that is the truth.