Former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole was at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa for an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari.
At the end of the visit, the All Progressives Congress chieftain spoke with State House correspondents on the state of the nation and the recent explosive public statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Why are you in the Villa?
Well, you know it is a new year and I felt since I haven’t been here since 2017, so I came in to wish the president a happy new year and appreciate him for his leadership of the country because, as an APC activist and loyalist, I’m a party man, to reassure him of my absolute and total support for his government and even for 2019.
I think that in moments like this nobody should sit on the fence. Our country has challenges and there are huge temptations here and there and it is important he knows that he has men and women who even at this hour have huge confidence in his leadership ability. Everything taken to account, I believe that every Nigerian who wants us to sustain some of the renewed vigour to deal with one of the most challenging problems that Nigeria has faced, namely corruption and things like that, you cannot but appreciate the president and all that has been done under his leadership this past two years and some months.
So are you saying he shouldn’t heed the former president’s advice and step aside?
I’m not sure when I see the list of the advisers that President Obasanjo is one of the advisers. But I also recall with respect that the day President Obasanjo was swearing in some of his advisers, he did say that anybody who is his adviser can advise him, he will make his own decisions. And I think that principle still stands.
If you have to review the development in the country, the poverty level and all that?
Let’s trace the root of poverty, it is not something that developed over the past few weeks or few years. If you review all your newspapers’ editorials from my days as president of the NLC, the challenge has been how do we ensure that the Nigerian economy works for the betterment of the majority of the people, particularly the forgotten rural majority?
So this has been there. But everybody who understands development issues and if you review Africa development literature, you will agree that one of the key issues that explains the paradox between a potentially very rich continent, in the case of Nigeria, a very rich nation, the paradox of a wealthy country but people getting poorer and poorer, has to do with the issue of corruption. And if you do not deal with that, you cannot deal with other things.
I think this president rightly identifies that as a major area of focus. I think that people have to realise that the amount of damage done by the previous governments, you know, when people say no blame game, maybe yes, maybe no. But where I come from, people say that it is only a fool who will be walking in the road, get into a pothole and fall and then get up and continue the journey, go to the hospital and treat himself. But a wise man must interrogate how and why did I fall, and maybe in the cause of doing that, find that there is a pothole. The first and simple thing to do is to fill that pothole before you continue on your journey and then go ahead and treat yourself.
Nigeria was below ground level and from what you guys report that I read, we have always had challenges, but never in terms of scale, magnitude. What President Buhari inherited is difficult to describe.
So, I have said so before that when you meet such a situation, your first task is to halt the drift, when you half the drift then you stabilise before you begin to go, there is no miracle about it.
I don’t think that anybody who understands the challenge of nation-building, of national economic management, etc will expect that in two years you can fix in a sustainable manner all of the things that have been destroyed over 16 years before this party came into office.
So, yes there are challenges, there are a couple of things we need to begin to do and reinforced, but there is no question that a lot has begun and a lot is being done. There is no miracle in the life of nations. So, the fact that the president even gave the lean resources and huge debts he inherited and the cost of serving those debts, the president insists that the poorest amongst us who are victims of these several years of misrule, that they must have something to give them a sense of belonging under the social programme which seeks to transfer cash of N5,000 and several other instruments that have been put in place, that is to recognize that they are really people who are so poor that N5,000 can make a difference. That recognition for me is important in a country where nobody has discussed this category of people before.
However, the challenge of getting that done is huge, given the paucity of data. All the investments we have made in national ID card, you guys know how much previous governments have spent, trying to organize a national data without which really, you can’t deliver a couple of things, because you need a data base that is reliable to be to identify who is poor, where is he located and how do we deliver something to him. But for me, there is a commitment. I can see a heart that cares for the poor. But that doesn’t mean caring for the poor will make the poverty disappear overnight. But that is a starting point, because if you don’t recognise that we have these people amongst us and they are in millions, then you are not even likely to reflect on how to deal with their problems.
For me, in terms of values I can see a lot.