Hon. Tony Nwulu, a first-time lawmaker representing Oshodi/Isolo Federal Constituency of Lagos State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this interview with AHMED MUSA spoke on the DSS raid on residence of judges, need for President Muhammadu Buhari to carry out a cabinet reshuffle, state of the economy and other issues. Excerpts:
Despite huge amount of money budgeted in this year’s Appropriation Act, the economy has continued to nosedive. What’s your reaction to this scenario, as a lawmaker whose constituents are very much affected in light of the hardship?
Like we rightly see, the economy is just not in a good shape. It is affecting everybody, it is affecting the common man, and I would rather say that obviously we are all paying for the sins of the past. The period that Nigeria would have saved much and stabilised because, if we talk about Africa, truly speaking being the largest in population and formerly being the largest economy before it was also overtaken recently by South Africa, you will find out that we have not done ourselves any good as a nation. That, I would blame both the leaders and those that selected the leaders because enough of blaming the leadership alone. The political leadership could be held responsible; but let’s also be aware that you don’t have a political leadership without having a political followership and the public are just as guilty as those that lead them. And if you fail to vote and if you are one of those that also play parts in rigging just to put the wrong person in power, you are all guilty of what we are passing through at the moment.
The question should be; are we suppose to be in this present condition? My answer is No. Nigeria is blessed with a lot of resources, we are a blessed nation but our leaders, our past leaders some of the current leaders are not helping this country to attain that dream of our forefathers to see a great nation. The economic indices at the moment are affecting everybody, it’s affecting everybody – from traders in the market, the commodities, the sellers and the cost of commodities have almost tripled or quadrupled. In having a bag of rice they used to sell for N8000, now you can’t get it for anything less than N20,000. It is a very negative indicator.
Just a few days ago, the IMF after doing what it called “a recalculation of countries’ GDP has put Nigeria in number one position before South Africa despite the recession, while Egypt is third. What do you make of that rating?
The question should be, do we even have any business being in recession? Do we have any business getting into recession in the first instance? By now, we shouldn’t be dealing with who is over-taking who. We should be in clear lead and until Nigeria gets it right, Africa will not get it right because whatever happens in Nigeria affects every other country in Africa. I believe that the current stride of the President, if we continue to sanitise the system as he is doing at the moment, hopefully Nigeria will bounce back and regain its lost glory. We can’t even talk about doing it at the moment, it’s actually lost. We are starting all over again. We have a country that would have developed beyond and above most developing countries if we had people that have the good of this country in mind; but successive governments have proven that all what they are interested in is emptying the treasury.? They all come in, loot and even loot beyond what they can pay. They use their own current regime to do unnecessary borrowing, thereby bringing much more debt for incoming regime to inherit. It’s pitiable if we want to tell ourselves the truth. A lot of things have to change in this country for us to move forward. The system has to change the system of having the state executives emptying the treasury, loot the States blue-black and leave it empty for the next governor to come and inherit an empty treasury.
We have a very bad and decayed state of infrastructure. These only happen in a country like ours. You set out budget for road, it is not done. You set out budget for infrastructure it is not built. The turnaround maintenances are not done, every area you look into is oozing of corruption, so why won’t we be in this situation? But if only we have people that are ready to tell themselves the truth and to move this country forward, we will definitely get there.
Your analysis of the issues tends to put much of the blame on past administrations brought about by your party, the PDP. What can you say this APC administration has done differently to change things? What measures can you point to as being taken in that regard?
Part of the measures I believe at the moment whether it is well conceived or not, is the TSA (Treasury Single Account). You see a lot of people are screaming but I tell you, the TSA has slowed down “business as usual” in most of the Ministries and parastatals. It has slowed down executive recklessness, financial recklessness. It has slowed down the regime of spending the way you want to spend. If it is drastic, maybe if it was going to be phased – like phase 1, phase 2, but then; I give credit to this current administration on TSA. It is not enough for us to keep complaining that things are going bad, but let’s take a closer look at 16 years down the line, what Nigeria would have been if truly we had decided to do right and grow. If only we had leaders that had interest of this country at heart. So, I believe one of the things the government has shown that there is still going to be light at the end of the tunnel is the TSA policy. It may be biting everybody now, but if not for that, most people would have been spending how they want, like it used to be in the past. Everybody is complaining about the TSA, especially the bureaucrats; so that means it is affecting them. Then, that means it is working.
Given the slow pace of progress, many have suggested that the President needs to rejig his team. Even his wife voiced the same concern recently when she talked about the government being hijacked by a cabal, do you share the same opinion?
I totally believe that the president needs to look into his cabinet, and I am sure he is the President. And I can say this without any sentiment, I believe we have gotten to that point where we should play less of politics and focus on nation building. When I look at the composition of the cabinet at the moment, I believe that the president can do better, not because the wife has said what she said. That’s her personal opinion. I don’t share in everything she is saying. Mine is, I believe the president can do better.
You see we have gotten to that point where there are critical sectors that require critical attention and you need seasoned professionals to be placed in these positions. Whether the president knows them or not is immaterial. Whether he has known them shouldn’t be the concern. Enough of trying to patronise your party. It is not about political patronage, at the moment we are talking about saving the country from precipice. And the only thing that can happen is for him to bring in the right persons to come on board. There are people that can help turn around things at the moment that the president needs at these critical times that he is fighting corruption and recession.
When I compare the formal Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Kemi Adeosun, you will see a huge gap between both of them. If the President could hire somebody like that woman (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala), it has nothing to do with whether she worked with the PDP regime or not; but. it has gotten to the point where the President needs to get accurate thinkers. You have Pat Utomi, you have Nigerians that are capable of doing the job; that are well trained, well seasoned and are quite astute both in character and minds. I believe that this is not the time where you have to bring a lawyer to head our Health sector. This is not the time you would bring someone that doesn’t have what it takes to handle an economy like Nigerian, to be the head. The president has good intentions. My problem with the president are those around him. They are the problem the president has. So, even when the president is fighting corruption, he also has to look inward to know if the people around him are actually with him or are corrupt.
As for the president, every other Nigeria would stand up and tell you that the president is not corrupt, and where it becomes a lot more difficult is when the number one person is not corrupt; and around him, there are still some corrupt elements and then you have the law enforcement EFCC under the leadership of Ibrahim Magu trying their best. But you also remember that there is still a chain of command; especially when it’s coming from the president.
So Magu’s hands may be tied in some cases where he could have performed well. But Magu as a seasoned law enforcement agent that he is; does the system allow him to operate very well? That is a story for another day. So I think the president system of fighting corruption is the very best Nigeria can ever get for now, if we want to tell ourselves the truth. And if we want a country that our children and ground children will be proud of to say I am a citizen of Nigeria. It is not just about what we are going to gain selfishly today; but to put Nigeria on that world map, we just have to believe in him. But I believe the president must as a matter of urgency look inward.
Given the recent raids by the DSS, some of the judges arrested have come out to indict the minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. If you are to advise the president on these allegation by the judges, what would you tell him?
Well, you know I cannot tell the president what to do at any point in time, but if Nigeria has to be cleaned, the truth remains that all sectors, all arms of government must be touched. Do we have corruption in the Judiciary, that should be the question? Yes we do, and even the NJC (National Judicial Council) recognised that there is corruption among some of them and that is why the body itself in most cases is self-sanitizing. They suspend people; in most cases, they forward your name to the anti corruption agency to prosecute you. So there is nothing surprising about the revelation. It’s whatever thing that has happened that lead to this revelation. It is an open development for Nigeria. let us begin to have more. Let more judges come and say those that have come to lobby them. We need to put on record and note that these things are happening. We cannot continue to play the ostrich as if we don’t know that some judges are bought with money. You go there, you buy them and the worst that can happen to any country is to have a corrupt judiciary; because a corrupt judge is worst than an armed robber. That is the truth about it. So the sanctity of the judiciary must always be up-held. Until we are able to sanitize the whole system from the Executive to the Judiciary to the Legislative arm, that is when we would turn out to say yes! We have men of integrity, men that can stand the tide.
I have heard several opinions and narrative. The DSS launch an attack, all those things I have heard them. The truth remains; can we beat our chest and say that we don’t have corrupt judges? Why is it that when the judges house is invaded whether it is in the midnight, does it matter? But when common citizen’s house is invaded in the midnight, it amounts to nothing. Are we also going to say that when this person is an identified armed robber then we should sleep and wait until the person wakes up in the morning so that the DSS would launch an attack on the person? If you are corrupt you are corrupt, it doesn’t matter what position you find yourself in. If you denigrated your position only to hide under that same position, the DSS will have to come in the midnight to invade your place.
I believe when we have a perfect judicial system, if the DSS have violated your right and you have been proven beyond reasonable doubt that you are innocent of all the things, you will still approach the same court for remedy. But when the court itself, the people we should run to are corrupt, then we don’t have a system. So I don’t know why they should be much issue on this. I believe that if the DSS has done something wrong, the agency will find a way to address it, but far and above every other thing, the major issue here is fighting corruption.
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