INTERVIEW: Buhari is eroding gains made by Jonathan against Boko Haram — Former Minister

Former Minister Tanimu Turaki
Former Minister Tanimu Turaki [Photo: Sani Tukur]

In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, a former Minister for Special Duties in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Tanimu Turaki, speaks about why APC defeated PDP in 2015, the performance of the APC administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and how the PDP plans to take back power in 2019. Excerpts..

Q: A lot of PDP members believe the 2015 defeat of the party by the APC was self-inflicted?

A: I don’t share the view that we caused PDP’s defeat ourselves. In any human endeavour, there could be flaws arising from imperfections and our frailties as human beings, but the truth of the matter is that for the first time in our political history, there was a well planned and well orchestrated propaganda that has never been seen in the history of Nigeria. Not even anywhere in Africa.

The APC revolved their campaign along three main issues; the issue of corruption, insecurity and economy. On the economy, they knew that PDP did extremely well managing a wobbling economy to become the strongest economy in Africa and then moving the confidence of both foreign and local investors to begin to invest in the Nigerian economy in such a way that Nigeria became the third most sought after economy after China and Qatar.

Even on the issue of corruption and insecurity, they brought in a lot of propaganda and hiked the expectations of Nigerians. Let me start with the issue of corruption.

The APC in their campaign tried to paint a picture that PDP government was involved in monumental corruption of unimaginable proportion and so they were abusing everybody. What happened at the end of the day? Because of this propaganda, some Nigerians believed that indeed yes, PDP was corrupt.

We are not saying there could have been no situation where one or two  or more government officials that had been given the opportunity would discover that there was a weakness in the system somewhere and take advantage of those flaws within the system; we are not saying that. We are not also saying that there were not some people that were engaged in unwholesome practices. But what we are saying is that the PDP-led federal government then under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan did the best it could.

In fact, even from Obasanjo, realising that there could be flaws in the system and also realising that there could be some unscrupulous individuals that could, given the opportunity, take advantage of such flaws to their advantage, laid the foundation for the architecture of the war against corruption.

It was the PDP-led government that established the ICPC and EFCC. We strengthened them and brought men and women of character into these institutions, funded them well and then they started the war. Our style was completely different from what the APC-led federal government is doing now.

What were we doing? We said ok, this is democracy, and there is this general assumption in Africa that government will always want to muzzle and harass the opposition, we said if we were going to start this war against corruption, let us start from within. And so what we were doing when PDP was in government was to look at those people who were in government or were holding office. These were the people that we started with.

Recall back and you will see that those were the people who were investigated or that those who were arraigned in court then were people who held office under the platform of the PDP and I can give you a couple of examples. For instance, the former governor of Edo state, Lucky Igbinedion, was in PDP, governor and now Senator Danjuma Goje was also in PDP, Abdullahi Adamu and a lot of other people; I can give you examples left, right and centre, including ministers.

There were people who were holding office as a result of pension reforms, which led to the recovery of huge amounts of money, who were arraigned before the court. So, we started the fight from within because we believe that charity begins at home.

What is happening today? What is happening today is that we now have a party that believes that the best thing you can do is to decimate the opposition, and in so doing, destroy the very fabric and foundation of democracy. So, if we go back to all the noise that was made about corruption, the biggest of it was that PDP officials were involved in $2.1billion Dasukigate or Armsgate. We are not even saying the whole allegation was true, but let us even assume for the sake of argument, that they were true, that there was$2.1 billion missing and that the whole of it was stolen, diverted or used inappropriately.

Can this government now, in all honesty open its mouth to say that indeed PDP-led federal government was involved in horrendous and humongous acts of corruption?

Just recently, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics said in one year, between 2016 to 2017 that there was over N400 billion that exchanged hands in bribes and this affected only Judiciary and the Police. This is coming from a well-respected government institution. To date, there has not been any statement from any government institution challenging the figures that were released saying it’s not true; this is just one agency.

Look at what is happening in NNPC today; a monumental fraud of uncommon proportion. These are the issues that are happening. And so, we say, if PDP who were in government in this country for 16 years and then they can only accuse us of $2.1 billion corruption, and in one year and in just one institution, there are allegations of over $50 billion; one single incident of over $25 billion in NNPC and this allegation is not coming from PDP members, it’s not coming from other members of the opposition; it’s coming from government sources.

For goodness sake, this allegation was made by a Minister of State for Petroleum; a serving Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Certainly, Ibe Kachikwu is not a busy body; certainly; Ibe Kachikwu is not known to be speaking carelessly. The Honourable Minister will not talk if he knows that he has no facts; Ibe Kachikwu will not be writing a letter to his Commander-in-Chief, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on matters that had not been verified or confirmed. So, if he has done that, regardless of who leaked the letter, it’s immaterial. The issue is that a serving minister has been so frustrated that he has to put it in record that there is uncommon corruption and subversion of the system in the agency that he leads, and write it to the president; then it’s really very unfortunate. And this is just within two years of their being in government.

Come to the issue of insecurity, which was one of the campaign issues that they took against us. The two main issues then were the militancy in Niger Delta and Boko Haram. Nigerians can remember that we solved completely, starting from the late President Yar’adua to President Goodluck Jonathan; we solved completely the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta. What was left was the issue of Boko haram and the issue was something that Nigerians and even the Nigerian security establishment were finding new; issues of terrorism have never been with us.

But at a point in time, we were now able to get support from friendly nations and we were able to understand the dynamics of the issues that were involved and we were beginning to win the war, in spite of whatever allegations that people were making. When the 2015 elections were postponed for about six weeks, Nigerians are living witnesses to the fact that a lot of grounds had been covered and that the Boko haram operatives were isolated.

But what is happening today? Not only has the APC-led Federal Government not been able to contain the grounds that we were able to recover, but, indeed, every day, you hear one act of Boko Haram attack or another; killing Nigerian armed forces who are not even well fed, whose welfare is not even in the interest of the government.

Secondly, Nigerians living within those areas who are repeatedly being informed that the issues have been solved; that Boko haram has been decimated, only for them to go back home and get killed. Look at the killings in IDPs, look at the killings on the street!

Now you can even leave that and say they are trying as they say, as part of their propaganda style. What about the issue of kidnapping? This is something that is so terrible in this country today that nobody is safe anywhere. Is it along the Abuja/Kaduna axis? Is it along the Kaduna/Kano axis? Is it along the Abuja/Minna axis? Is it along the Bauchi/Birnin Kudu axis?  Is it in the South East? Is it in Lagos? Everywhere. Look at the issues of armed robbery too; look at the issues of herdsmen/farmers clashes everywhere and this government has deliberately refused to do anything as far as these issues are concerned.

And so we keep on saying that Nigerians entered ‘One Chance’ vehicle. Nigerians were hoodwinked by the APC propaganda. They themselves never thought that they were going to win elections and they were making promises they knew they will never keep, so that by the time the PDP wins election, Nigerians will now hold PDP to those kinds of promises or similar ones.

Unfortunately, however, God now gave them the opportunity and what are they doing? They have destroyed Nigeria’s economy, destroyed our unity; the very fabrics of our existence as a people, as a nation.

More than ever before, Nigerians are now divided along many lines; regionalism, tribalism, religious bigotry, ethnicity and so on and so forth. Many have now begun to even question the workability of our union as a country. Nigerians who had for long identified our differences as our source of strength. Nigerians who have always worked to be our brother’s or sister’s keepers are now beginning to say ‘I have to be for myself alone’. This was never in our character as Nigerians; this is not part of us, this is as a result of the situation now that the APC-led federal government has placed on us.

So, we continue to tell Nigerians that we must wake up and shine our eyes, enough of this propaganda. As far as APC is concerned, they still behave as if they are still in opposition. They are in government and have the advantage of all the information agencies and institutions of government can give. But even when they talk, they talk from a very pedestrian perspective. They always talk from the position of lack of information and lack of knowledge. Whereas they have all the information at their disposal.

So Nigerians entered a ‘One Chance’ vehicle in 2015. Thank God, they are beginning to realise that. What are the opportunities that APC brought and promised Nigerians? They promised two million jobs every year but what is happening? Nothing. Instead there is joblessness and hopelessness everywhere. They promise prosperity, what do we have? Adversity. They promised that the economy will be strengthened. What do we have? The economy has been destroyed.  There is hunger and poverty all over and because of that, there is anger everywhere. That is the situation that we have now found ourselves in Nigeria.

Thank God, citizens are now beginning to make comparison and that is the essence of elective democracy. So that whenever a given political party or individual is given the opportunity to get into office and people think that that person could have done better, so you give another party or another individual an opportunity to do something as well. Now Nigerians have an opportunity to make a comparison and I am confident that by the time we go back to the polls in 2019, Nigerians will wake up from this slumber and do the right thing. And that right thing will be to vote APC out of government at every level from local government up to the national level, because they have killed what always brought us together as a people.

Q: You talked about the economy and how it has gone bad, but the APC government has refused to take responsibility for the state of the economy, saying they met it in bad shape after taking over from the PDP.

A: That is why I said that APC believes they are still in the opposition. When PDP came into government, we inherited an economy that was on a shaky foundation, as a result of long standing military regimes. A lot of Nigerians had no confidence in the economy, lost confidence on the country and a lot of “Andrews” were checking out of this country.  Nigerian professionals: doctors, lawyers, scientists, pharmacists were going outside to look for greener pasture. Wherever they went, they were found to be the best you could find anywhere in the world and they were making money.

So, if your own people were checking out, not believing in their own country, how will you expect other people to come? This was the state of the economy when PDP came into office. And what did we do? We had to build confidence, to make Nigerians believe in themselves; to make Nigerians believe that they have this can-do spirit; and we rekindled it. PDP revived a new phase of patriotism and nationalism: believe in yourself, believe in your capacity, and we started a deliberate policy of wealth creation and empowerment, and at the end of the day, you discovered that Nigerians believing in themselves started creating wealth within this country. Agriculture was transformed from being a means of subsistence living into a business; people were growing not only to feed themselves but to make money.

Nigerians in diaspora, who thought nothing good would happen in Nigeria, were coming back to the country and investing billions of their hard earned money in the country. With that, other foreign investors started coming. As a government, we liberalised the landscape, we created opportunities and made sure that there was security for the investment and the investor. You come to Nigeria and invest your money and when you are leaving, you have the assurance that you could take your money and profit out.

Because of this, we were able to transform Nigeria’s economy to become the biggest and strongest in Africa. We were able to make Nigeria’s economy to become one of the most dynamic and fastest growing economies in the world. The facts are there in government now, they can verify them.

Like I said earlier on, because of the safeguards that were in place, investors were coming because they knew that there was a fertile ground for the growth of their investment. That was when big companies like MTN came to Nigeria as well as a lot of companies that operate within the Oil and Gas industry; in communication, healthcare, and in Agriculture.

The Zimbabwean farmers are here and a lot of other investors came and invested in the economy. Within three months of APC taking over government in this country, investors started folding up and leaving. People invested their money and it was made difficult for them to take out their profits. That was as a result of the conflicting and lack of understanding of the forex regime that the APC-led federal government came up with in less than three months. There was a rush on the economy, a lot of companies that were involved in civil engineering and construction started sacking Nigerians and were folding up. Not only was government refusing to patronise them, but this government was refusing to pay their outstanding commitments which were verified. Because of this, the economy was destroyed; this is a verifiable fact, they cannot deny that.

What is the situation now? From number one economy in Africa, I think we are 30 something now. From the third most sought after economy in the world, everybody is leaving now.  They have destroyed our economy, these are again verifiable facts. Let them come up and challenge this fact.

From an economy that believes in doing things in line with international best practices to an economy where bribery and corruption has now been elevated to the highest level in government. If within one Ministry; the Petroleum Ministry, about two or three agencies could be involved in corruption of monumental level that Ibe Kachikwu has said, then imagine what would have happened in other places.

Not to talk of the allegations of corruption taking place in the CBN as far as the forex transaction is concerned. The Emir of Kano had said it and up to now, nobody has come out to controvert it. That there are people who sleep in their bed and make billions of naira from the sale of allocation of forex given to them by CBN. That fact has not been controverted.

So, our economy is in shambles now.  I pity the next incoming PDP government because it’s like we have been taken 20 years back. We have to start to rekindle confidence all over again. To rekindle that spirit of patriotism within Nigerians and to make global investors to once again believe in us. APC cannot deny the fact that they have destroyed the main fabric of Nigerian economy which PDP took 16 very relentless years to build.

Q: You hold two key positions in the PDP now and the Supreme Court recently gave your party a lifeline back recognising one faction as the authentic leadership of the party. But many out there believe the PDP is not giving the APC the kind of opposition you received when you were in power.  What gives you the confidence that PDP will reclaim power in 2015?

A: I agree with you in a sense. I agree with you because most of us are yet to recover from the shock of the defeat we had in the 2015 election. Like I said, the APC themselves did not believe that they could win, just like PDP never believed that we could lose because of what we did and the relationship between us and Nigerians. But we lost and they won.

When PDP was in government, we allowed opposition to grow. We supported them and created a level playing ground in all ramifications. Like I said, even in the war against corruption which we initiated because of our believe that the system must be cleansed in line with what is happening globally, we did not harass any opposition member. The records are there, I challenge anybody.

Even when members of the press and indeed many Nigerians spoke and criticised us, we were always taking it in good faith. We believe and still do that Nigerians have the rights to say their minds at all times. We never saw it as an act of sabotage or hate speech as it were, we took everything in good faith.

From the time when President Obasanjo came into office up to the time when President Jonathan left on May 29, 2015 there was no single individual that was arrested or molested on account of his free expression of his views. We were very accommodating, Nigerians know that and nobody can deny that fact.

But what is happening? Because APC is not a political party; it’s a conflagration of people whose ideas are incongruous; whose thinking is diametrically opposed to each other, who have nothing to offer, came together. In order to cover their inefficiency, incapacity and their unpreparedness in government, they have to create a lot of diversion. What are these diversions? If somebody’s wife has miscarriage, they will say it’s the fault of PDP. If you are unable to get employment, they say it’s the fault of PDP. If they are unable to pay salaries, they will say it’s the fault of PDP. They were so much engaged in this continuous act of propaganda and self delusion such that at that point in time, a lot of Nigerians in our gullible minds were beginning to say oh! That could be true.

After 100 days, there was nothing to show for it. After one year, there was nothing to celebrate; after two years, Nigerians are now beginning to say, no, APC, these things could not have been PDP. You have been in government for over two years now, what have you got to show except monumental corruption? Is it the grass cutting scandal of the sacked SGF?

And when something relates to a Nigerian that is not a politician, they begin to shout. When something relates to a Nigerian that is in the opposition, they even shout more. When it relates to a member of the APC, they keep quiet. If today I am a member of the PDP and I am accused of stealing money and tomorrow I decamp to APC, that is the end of it. I will not be investigated, arrested neither will I be arraigned before the court of law and that will be the end of the matter. There are millions and one of these examples to give. Nigerians are aware of them.

Like I said also on many occasions, we are human. President Jonathan wanted the election to be as clean as possible. He wanted the 2015 elections to be conducted in line with international best practices. That was why we said let there be level playing ground, and level playing ground indeed was provided. And for the first time in the history of elections in Africa, a sitting president accepted defeat even before the conclusion of the election exercise. It has never happened anywhere in Africa. But instead of taking this gain moving this nation forward, what is APC doing? Dividing us and destroying our unity because they know they cannot do anything.

They did not stop there, realising that Nigerians are beginning to realise they have made a fundamental mistake in electing them into power, they said ok, let is try and destroy PDP. That was why they inserted that crisis within us. But one with God is majority. Because we are with God in PDP, we said ok, we are not going to fight dirty, we are not going to start kicking and killing ourselves, let us allow this thing to be resolved in a proper manner because we belief this this thing is not just going to benefit PDP as a political party, but will benefit democracy in this country.

What was the issue that was taken through the gamut of the Judiciary up to the Supreme Court?  It was the issue of the interpretation of the constitution of a political party, with due regards and reference to the powers of the national convention. So, the decision of the Supreme Court has not only settled the rift in PDP, but has a set a standard that will settle any similar quarrel that may arise in any political party in this country again. Now the dramatis personae that was sent in to cause crisis; when even when the caretaker national chairman is saying no victor, no vanquished and an olive branch was extended to him, he said no, I want to return to APC, I want to go back to my masters. But what is happening? The APC are saying we don’t want you.

This is a pointer to all those who are not necessarily members of PDP that may allow themselves to be used to destroy their own political party or organisations or associations, that beware, those people that are using you will not have a place for you tomorrow when you find yourself in the cold.

Q: So what is the PDP doing to win power again?

A: We have learnt our lesson now. We have been able to come together, we have now been able to forgive each other and understand that nobody can do it alone. No organ within the party hierarchy can do it alone, and so we are more united and we are set to project the party forward. What we are going to do going forward is to make sure that there is level playing ground in whatever we are doing at every level.

We have also resolved that there must be inclusivity. We have resolved there will be no more impunity in whatever we do. We have also resolved, more fundamentally than all these other ones, that since our slogan has always been power to the people, and that is why Nigerians consistently for 16 years have stood by us, believed in us, worked with us and voted us into power, we now said we are taking the power back to the people and let them see themselves as determinants of who get what within the party.

Let Nigerians have the power to decide who becomes the candidate for any election in Nigeria under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. This is what we are doing and this is part of our strategy that we want to use to capture power back in 2019. Of course, there are a lot of other strategies, but certainly, to begin to say them in a discussion like on a national platform. We have our strategies, we are keeping them close to our chest. But I am sure by the time we begin to deploy them, I am sure APC will just say INEC forget about election, we will handover to PDP.

Q: I want us to address the issue of people who left the party and are allegedly now scheming to become the presidential candidates of the party. This is an issue that could bring fresh crisis into the PDP?

A: For us in PDP, this is what has given us additional reason to celebrate and thank God that even though you may try to kill it or embellish it, but the truth will always remain the truth. It will always remain constant. After the series of bashing that we received from APC through orchestrated and well-planned uncommon propaganda, after all the blackmail, the same PDP members that were used in abusing us and then leaving to go and help APC win elections, have realised that they have made a fundamental mistake. That they are coming back now is a source of joy for us.

PDP is a large family and in any family, that is large, you could expect that there could be differences in opinion. But what has made PDP different from other political parties is our ability to sit down as a large family to discuss our differences and different opinions and then carry everybody along in such a way and manner that you believe that even though at the end of it my opinion is not what the party agreed upon, but I have been given the opportunity of a hearing and I am convinced that the decision that my party has taken is the best in the circumstance.

Our doors are wide open, not only for our brothers and sisters that have left, but even those who want to join the party for the first time. That you have seen a lot of people who have left in unwholesome circumstances after abusing PDP in public, after castigating us, after saying a lot of unprintable things against us wanting to come back now is a very big statement. I don’t want to interpret it, I prefer to leave it to Nigerians to interpret.

Q: Who are those people?

A: There are a lot of them. Take your mind back to the convention of the party when some leaders of the party walked out. Some of them back to their senses and returned to the party. Some have gone to the APC, have they found a home in the APC? No! there is a large expanse of land in the world, if you sit in Abuja and you are not happy with what is going on in Abuja, for goodness sake, move to Lafia. If you are not ok with Lafia, you move to Jos or Makurdi, from there up to Uyo. If you want to move the other way, up to Sokoto and Kebbi. Nigeria is so big and there is enough space for everybody.

So, if they now want to come back, we will open the doors for them. But certainly, if we forgive as a party, we will not forget. No son will take his mother to the market square and strip her naked in the public glare will now take her back home and say ‘Mummy, I brought a lace material with the best and most expensive perfume for you to spray in the comfort of your bedroom’. The mother being a mother will say thank you my son, but will she ever forget that humiliation?

Secondly, that a lot of people are beginning to think that PDP is indeed the veritable vehicle that will take over government in 2019 gladdens our heart. 12 to 16 months ago, a lot of people do not even have PDP within their equation. People thought that PDP was going under, a lot of people thought PDP was going to disintegrate. What happened? We sat down selflessly and objectively agreed that we have a problem and confronted our problem and solved it.

So, let many people come into PDP, let those who are in PDP begin to express interest to become anything, that is the difference between PDP and other parties. In other parties, they will just tell you this is the anointed person. In PDP, nobody is anointed. Even though the presidency is zoned to the north, and you could see people coming outside the north saying we want to contest, it is because of the freedom that PDP gives to Nigerians.

Yes, there are rumours that many people from other parties, including the party in government will come to PDP and will also want to aspire to lead the party in the next election. In fact, there are people who are not politicians, men and women of integrity that want to also come and join and then seek to become something within PDP. We welcome them.

What we will assure Nigerians is that whether you have remained within PDP or a returnee or a new convert, we will give level playing ground. The process will be transparent, open and credible so that at the end of the day, every PDP member, wherever they may be, will have that sense of belonging that indeed this person that is flying our flag is our own choice. This, the new PDP will guarantee.

But before we get there, our concern now as leaders of the party is to elect credible people into our working committee at our next convention that is coming on the 9th of December. We want to get men and women of integrity, people that will be the new face of PDP, people that will not have been part of the so-called impunity that have played out in the party before. People that will raise that hope among Nigerians. People that will inspire members of the party to go that extra mile in canvassing support for the party. So that at the end of the day, we will come up with men and women of proven integrity that will stand anywhere and that would be the first step that PDP will use in telling Nigerians that we have changed, this is a new PDP.

By the time we get to the point of selecting our party’s presidential candidate, I assure you that Nigerians will be proud of PDP. We will come out with a man or woman of high integrity, somebody who is unassailable, whose integrity is beyond reproach, somebody that Nigerians will have confidence that even though we are going to bring a northerner, we are not going to bring a northern president.

I want to assure Nigerians and it is important that Nigerians take note of this. Even though the presidency has been zoned to the north, we are not going to give Nigerians a northern president, we are going to give Nigerians, a Nigerian president of northern extraction. Somebody when he thinks, he thinks Nigeria; when he wants to act, he acts Nigeria. Somebody when he wants to move, he moves Nigeria.

Not somebody that will begin to discriminate among Nigerians, not somebody who will want to treat Nigerians differently on the basis of their support, their thinking, their beliefs and attitude. Somebody who will build strong bridges of friendship across the divide. We will bring somebody who is a unifier.

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