Posted by By CHRISTIAN ITA & EMEKA ENYINANYA on
The running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the April 21 presidential election, Senator Ben Obi says as things stand at the moment, there is no way the Action Congress (AC) would take part in the government of President Umar Yar’Adua. He spoke during a visit to the corporate headquarters of the Sun in Lagos Friday.
The running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the April 21 presidential election, Senator Ben Obi says as things stand at the moment, there is no way the Action Congress (AC) would take part in the government of President Umar Yar’Adua.
He spoke during a visit to the corporate headquarters of the Sun in Lagos Friday.
Yar’Adua had in keeping with his pledge of running a unity government, invited key opposition parties like AC for talks with the hope of having them join his government.
But Obi, whose party is contesting Yar’Adua’s victory at the Election Petition Tribunal foreclosed the possibility of that happening, at least for now.
His words: “It is not a question of ‘please, come and join us and let us work a government of national unity.’ There are certain things that must be put in place. There are certain anomalies that must be corrected. I do not see the possibility of the Action Congress joining Yar’Adua’s government based on what transpired on 14, 21 and 28 of April.”
Obi, who spoke on other issues like the industrial action by labour, also denied the rumoured crack in his party over the invitation by Yar’Adua for it to join his government.
There are speculations that there is a division in your party, the Action Congress over the invitation by President Umar Yar’Adua that the party joins him in forming a unity government, how true is this?
It is true that His Excellency, President Yar’Adua had requested the Action Congress to discuss with him on the way forward. The AC had deliberated on his letter and the National Chairman, His Excellency, Chief Bisi Akande has responded on behalf of the AC stating clearly that we share the ideas and vision of which he wants us to discuss on the way he wants us to move the nation forward. But there are certain fundamental issues that we will need to look into before we can get into discussions.
I believe very strongly that the damage done to this country by the Obasanjo administration is such that it has brought us to the precipice. So, any attempt of moving the nation forward from that point could lead to something more disastrous. I believe that what we need to do now is arrest the situation. Pull the country back from where it is now and chart a way forward. So, as far as the letter of His Excellency, Alhaji Yar’Adua is concerned, it is merely requesting that he would want to chat on the way forward with the Action Congress.
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar said serving or having relationship with Yar’Adua at all is like haram (taboo) in Islam. Curiously enough, former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at a conference in Lagos took a position that tended to contract what Atiku by saying the party would work with Yar’Adua if he fulfilled certain conditions. Isn’t that a crack?
That is not correct, the AC has a clear-cut position, which the party chairman has put across. In this business of politicking, people are bound to express their personal views, which cannot be the party’s opinion. The party’s view is that at the moment, we would not have anything to do with the Yar’Adua government. It is not a question of ‘please, come and join us and let us work a government of national unity. There are certain things that must be put in place.
There are certain anomalies that must be corrected. I do not see the possibility of the Action Congress joining Yar’Adua’s government based on what transpired on 14, 21 and 28 of April. There are certain things that most be done. What am trying to say is that there is a minimum requirement that must be met by this government. For us to work with the government INEC must be dissolved and agreement reached on how to reform the Electoral Act and then look at the so-called sham of an election where results were allocated. These are matters before the tribunals and the tribunals must go ahead and conclude the matter before then.
Atiku and General Muhammadu Buhari have said that it is rather inopportune to talk about a unity government now, that the processes at the tribunal must be concluded before any such talks. But as we know, the petitions might not be dispensed with on time by the tribunals. Aren’t you worried?
We have been assured by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Idris Kutigi that the process of getting this matter cleared at the tribunals would not be delayed or slowed down like what we went through in 2003 when some of us spent two years. The president of the Court of Appeal also has assured us that the process would be faster. So, I do not think it is going to be a long process.
What would you make of the seeming inaction of the Yar’Adua administration? Since assuming the presidency, the highlight of his administration so far it appears is his outing at the G-8 Summit in Germany.
I must say when you have the kind of situation Alhaji Yar’Adua is having, it would be must difficult to do anything. Here we are with a galvanised, coordinated and organised labour strike and the government is also faced with a problem of legitimacy, a government that has a moral burden hanging on its head. And to worsen the matter is the way my good friend, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe is talking. He is talking tough.
Now, the question to ask yourself is, all of them put out there that are speaking on behalf of government, where did they secure the mandate? It is not a question of talking tough. The government must come down to the realities of the moment. The truth is that Nigerians are suffering in the midst of plenty. I was listening to the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Irene Chigbue explaining how the process had started over a long period of time and ended at the very moment of Obasanjo’s departure when they sold the refineries to the people who bought them. My God, so you could not even manage the timing.
Those who are complaining are Nigerians and the people who bought the refineries are Nigerians and we know these people and what they have bought over time. So, we must be careful and guard this democracy. Am worried about the way our leaders are speaking and acting. They must show some concern for the common man on the street. It is very disturbing to see political leaders speak in this tone after what we have gone through in this country. It is in fact, disturbing. I believe that the government should listen to the leaders of the organised labour. They do have a point.
The labour Thursday alleged that Yar’Adua still takes order from Otta. Do you believe that he is still being teleguided by Obasanjo?
I agree with the labour 100 per cent. This is the problem and that is why I said the first thing he should done is to say ‘no, you cannot hang this problem on my neck, let me come in and see things myself, consider them and talk with labour about the possible hike in fuel price. You are leaving and you are increasing VAT rate and selling the refineries and then who will inherit the problem?
One of the agitation of labour is the reversal of the sale the refineries. Do you think it is correct for government contractors and financiers of PDP to have bought up the country’s patrimony in the first place?
That is what I have said. That those who bought the refineries are Nigerians and we know their antecedence. The sale should be reversed. In societies where things are properly done, the best approach could have been to dispose of the very bad parastatals of government that are non profitable and then move up to the profitable ones. I do not see any reason, am not convinced why we should sell our refineries. That they have not been working over the years is because the government has not taken the interest to make them function.
All they have been doing is import fuel. Then you ask yourself who are the people importing this fuel? Let them bring out their records and publish the record of importers.
The recent increase in the price of fuel for instance, has been defended in some quarters as a necessary inducement if investors are to build refineries in the country?
I do not have the facts but what I do know is that whenever they increase the price of fuel, it is often done by a clique. There is supposed to be a board (PPPRA) with Rasheed Gbadamosi as head. But they never call a board meeting; they just sit down take these decisions.
About your case at the tribunal, Atiku had said not too long ago that he was confident that he would win. Now, the question is, since the AC did not come second but third, how would it leapfrog the ANPP to be declared the winner of the presidential election?
We are not telling them that we won an election because we know there was no election. We are saying nullify this sham because there was no election.
And if that happens, won’t that be a recipe for anarchy?
That is why we said if he wants us to talk there are certain things he must do. They must hold themselves responsible for the damage done to this country. They have done monumental damage to this country and Nigerians should hold them responsible. They never planned to hold any elections, it was as a result of the pressure mounted by the opposition that made them come out with something wishy-washy.
Corruption in the country seems to have assumed a social dimension as displayed by the people of Onyi-Akoko in Ondo State. Immediate past IG, Sunday Ehindero was given a chieftaincy title even when he is still being investigated over allegations of fraud. Don’t things like this put pressure on public office holders to line their pockets?
There is a general breakdown of morals in the country. Unfortunately, the situation has become so decadent and stinks to high heavens. So, you need to completely severe yourself from that vicious circle. Leaders must show example of commitment to true leadership. Nigerians gave Obasanjo true and total support believing that the redeemer has come. There was so much jubilation that three months after he took over in May 1999 there was nothing like problems.
Quite honestly, we must also understand that he too did not understand the level of decay to which the country had dropped but then there was no seriousness in tackling problems. By 2003, he has become unpopular, which was why they rigged the elections. And in 2007, they just abandoned the whole thing, there was just no need to conduct elections because if they did it would have been disaster for them.
Does Obasanjo’s performance in office qualify him to play the role of an African statesman?
Initially, the international community thought they have found a replacement for Mandela but the situation is different today. It is all over, that chapter is closed.
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