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A former presidential candidate on the platform of the deregistered National Conscience Party (NCP), Martin Onovo, in this interview speaks extensively on the dominant political elite, the 2023 general elections, and the prevalent situation in Nigeria. He is optimistic that the government of Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) will be a new paradigm of hope in Nigeria. Excerpt.
Some political actors, including Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State, have raised concerns that 2023 general elections may not hold due to rising insecurity, but INEC and the police, insist they are ready for transparent elections. Do you think INEC can weather the storm?
INEC and the security agencies cannot control the security situation because, the insecurity is “mostly sponsored by the ruling party” that controls both INEC and the security agencies. The importation of Fulani terrorists in 2015 and their continued protection led to the demotivation of security officials. We must remember the declaration of retired General T. Y. Danjuma that, ‘The armed forces are not neutral. They are colluding with the armed bandits that are killing citizens. We know that President Buhari is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces that are colluding with the bandits that are killing citizens. We must be reminded of the position of Senator Jonah Jang, who described the killings as “heinous crime against his people, genocide, and an attempt to forcefully take over and occupy the ancestral land of the Berom nation”. President Buhari is Fulani and the terrorists are Fulani. We must be reminded of the confession of Alhaji Kawu Baraje that the ruling party imported the Fulani terrorists for the 2015 elections. We must not forget the position of President Buhari on the matter when Benue elders complained about the issue of Fulani herdsmen terrorism. He said to them, ‘Accommodate your country men’. The Buhari presidency has also advised Nigerians to surrender their ancestral lands instead of losing their lives to these Fulani terrorists. Also, the judgment in the Dubai court against Nigerian Boko Haram terrorist financiers confirmed the involvement of a high-ranking government official. Similarly, Commodore Kunle Olawunmi (rtd.) asserted that the Buhari regime has people sympathetic to terrorists in very high positions. Finally, Barr. Malcom Omhirobo publicly concluded that, ‘The Buhari government is a terrorist government’. It can then be argued that insecurity is growing in Nigeria because the ruling party is the sponsor and the government is complicit. Once the ruling party withdraws their sponsorship and protection of the terrorists, the situation can very easily be contained.
On INEC’s claims, it may be naïve to accept that INEC with this same leadership that conducted the 2019 charade is ready for transparent elections. The major challenges in the conduct of the elections are the partisanship of INEC leadership, lack of sincerity of purpose in the INEC leadership and the islamization agenda. INEC as currently constituted is the greatest threat to democracy in Nigeria. INEC has violated many of its own rules for free and fair elections. INEC has registered underage voters, tolerated the violation of election finance limits, tolerated allegations of perjury and forgery by the ruling party candidates, allowed under-aged voters, etc. INEC has no credibility. INEC refused to release a certified copy of the nomination form of the presidential candidate of the ruling party until it was forced to do so by a court. INEC apparently wanted to conceal the false information and forged documents attached to the nomination in favour of the ruling party. INEC lacks integrity and no system can work effectively without integrity. We know that INEC is the ‘Election Committee’ of the ruling party. How can we believe the same INEC under its current Chairman? INEC deceived the entire country with its ‘Electronic Collation Manual’ and electronic card readers in 2019 only to bypass them in Northern Nigeria. When the election results were challenged, INEC denied the opposition access to its server to conceal the evidence of the massive rigging of the 2019 presidential election. Same INEC claimed it accredited over nine hundred thousand voters in Boko Haram infested Borno State alone. Same Borno State that Prof. Osinbajo said was largely inaccessible due to Islamic terrorism. INEC has no credibility. We cannot believe INEC under its current Chairman that is an agent of the ruling party. We have seen many videos of PVCs of Christians dumped or buried by INEC. To surmount these challenges, INEC must follow the paths of highest integrity and show unhindered transparency.
What would you say of the uncontrollable insecurity in the South East towards the 2023 elections?
The situation in the Southeast is not uncontrollable. The situation in the Southeast is the result of the insecurity sponsored by the ruling party all over Nigeria, complicated by local petty criminals trying to take advantage of the situation. I just got back from the Southeast after I had spent about four weeks there so, I understand the situation correctly.
Do you think the insecurity will be out of the control of the military and other security agencies to the point of obstructing the 2023 elections as scheduled?
The situation remains beyond the control of the security agencies only because the ruling party that is sponsoring the insecurity controls the same security agencies you expect to contain the terrorists.
What is your assessment of the top four presidential candidates, Atiku, Tinubu, Obi and Kwakwanso?
There are about 16 presidential candidates. The quality of candidates is generally poor as is expected in a dysfunctional system. All the polls, local and foreign, confirm that Labour Party is leading with a wide margin in the presidential election. Even the national poll of rural voters has confirmed that the Labour Party leads not only in urban areas but also in rural areas. The Nigerian people are angry with the two ruling parties that are responsible for our Nigerian predicament. In addition, they both have horrible candidates. Alhaji Bola Tinubu has an irregular Muslim-Muslim ticket. He is too old, sick and was indicted in a narcotic trafficking case in America. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar violated his party’s principle of power-rotation and has several allegations of corruption. The labour Party has the public support of organized labour that has millions of members and associated workers. Peter is Obi is known for fiscal prudence. He performed very well as Governor of Anambra State. He also has the endorsement of former President Obasanjo. We will say that Peter Obi is the one-eyed king in the land of blind presidential candidates.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsing Peter Obi for President, do you think the former President is leading Nigerians in the right direction after previous experiences?
Yes. Former President Obasanjo is a very experienced, insightful, humble, patriotic and effective African leader. He brilliantly and clearly justified his endorsement of Peter Obi in his letter to Nigerian youths. He rightly made it clear that none of the candidates is a saint, then, he correctly insisted that Peter Obi has an edge over the others. We agree with him. We know that he is leading Nigerians in the right direction. The Movement for Fundamental Change (MFC) assessment of the candidates also ranks Peter Obi well above the others on all requirements including Integrity, Vision, Experience and Competence. Our criteria are slightly different from former President Obasanjo’s criteria and we arrived at the same conclusion. Former President Obasanjo used Track Record, Vision, Character and Physical fitness (TVCP).
With the statistics from the NBS on Nigeria’s economy and other social indicators, do you think Nigerians should return the ruling party to power in 2023?
Returning the ruling party to power will be conduct likely to cause genocide in Nigeria. Many people will die from poverty, hopelessness, illness, etc. Currently, Nigeria is classified as a failed state going by the standards of the US Council on Foreign Relations (US CFR). Nigeria: “This State Has Failed” | Council on Foreign Relations (cfr.org). This may be accurate given the following facts;
- Nigeria is still ranked “Very High” (the highest category) ahead of Mali in the Global Terrorism Index 2022.
- 133 million Nigerians living in ‘Multi-dimensional Poverty in 2022.
- Nigeria has about 20 million out-of-school children currently.
The next stage after the “Failed State” status on the US CFR template is “Complete Collapse”. Gov. Obaseki of Edo State has predicted that Nigeria will collapse if the ruling party returns itself to power. We agree with him.
Nigeria’s debt stock is projected to rise to N77 trillion under the APC government, does this reflect a descending into debt trap, which you talked about over the years?
It is good that you remember we warned publicly against the reckless and unpatriotic borrowing of the Buhari regime. We went further to write to the National Assembly warning of the consequences. Former President Obasanjo also warned the regime. To the credit of Alhaji Bukola Saraki, as Senate President, the Senate at that time resisted most of the requests of the Buhari regime for reckless and unpatriotic borrowing. Unfortunately, the rubber-stamp Senate, led by Alhaji Ahmed Lawan, slavishly approved all the reckless and unpatriotic requests. Currently, it is estimated that we need N4.6 trillion for debt servicing this 2023. In 2022, the National Economic Summit Group (NESG) estimated that we used 97% of our national revenue for debt service. Nigeria is already gone past a debt trap. Nigeria is in a debt crisis.
How would you summarise the potential legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari at the end of his tenure on May 28, 2023?
A catastrophic failure. The worst president in the history of government ever in the whole world. His regime destroyed public morality with mass deceit. They shattered national unity and cohesion with their islamization agenda. They devastated national security with their sponsorship and protection of Fulani terrorists. They ruined the economy with unprecedented corruption.
Do you think the policy promises of the leading presidential candidates can turn around the socio-economic system of Nigeria in the new administration?
Yes, a Labour Party government will be a new paradigm of hope. It will be very challenging but Nigeria can have a fresh start. The most productive Nigerians will be happy and contribute their energy and talents for a new attempt at nation building.
Is the Naira redesign succeeding in the purpose for which it was initiated?
The CBN Governor and President Buhari are playing a very dirty game to deceive Nigerians after they have ruined the economy with unprecedented waste, incompetence and corruption. This crisis was foreseen, predicted and expected. They have simply constrained the finances of the citizens in a financial terrorism scheme against vulnerable Nigerians. Their false published objectives were to go cashless; to improve their control over the currency in circulation and to use modern technology to frustrate counterfeiting. First, going cashless cannot be instantaneous and disruptive. It must be planned and in stages. Two, the national infrastructure for going cashless is clearly inadequate. So, the CBN should have worked to first improve the infrastructure required for cashless systems. Third, the high illiteracy level is a real constraint to any cashless policy. Their claim that they will use technology to frustrate counterfeiting has been shown to be false as the new notes were easily counterfeited almost immediately. We are paying the price of our complacency. Led by a section of the mass media, we tolerate whatever trash the government comes up with.
What would you say may have made fuel scarcity persist for too long?
NNPC is simply not supplying enough PMS in their corrupt scheme of import, subsidize and smuggle products out of the country. Please recall the case of the Customs officer, Mr. Segun Owombo, who was recalled from his duty post for arresting a tanker smuggling PMS in Adamawa State and refusing the instruction from a superior officer to release the tanker. In this Buhari regime, corruption is official and impunity too is official.
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