Chief Sunny Onuesoke is a former Governorship Aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta state during the 2007 governorship election. He is currently the Special Project Director, Governor’s office, Asaba, Delta state. In this interview with Ovasa Ogaga, he spoke on Nigeria at 56, the need for stable electricity in Nigeria, why President Muhammadu Buhari must start the recently launched ‘change begins with me’ programme from his house and among others.
On October 1st, Nigeria will be 56 years old, as a politician, briefly compare this democratic regime with that of the military?
I don’t want make statement about 1960 till date but I want to be generalistic about democracy in Nigeria. Without fear of favour, at 56 we have not been able to practice 20% of democracy in the country, a lot of irregularities, human right abuse, constitutional abuse and among others. That is not to say that we have democratically succeeded in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of association, democratic generally, we are still very backward after almost half a century plus. I won’t give credit to democratic build up but as for democratic settings, if we measure from 1960 to date, it is absolutely zero.
Are you indirectly saying that military regime is better than democratic government?
I am not obviously saying that but you cannot separate Nigeria’s democracy from military regime. The attitude of the President of keeping portfolios to himself, some governors keeping some portfolios to themselves, it is undemocratic. If we say democratic system of government, you don’t interfere with any of the arms of government but if you look at the executive of the country from the federal to the state level, you see large control of the executives over the judiciary and the legislature. So we have not gotten total democracy from 1960 to date.
In order for us to practice real democracy; what do you think Nigeria leaders should do?
Democracy is relative, if you are oppressing the minority in a democratic setup, it is not democratic. The minorities should be allowed to enjoy what the majority enjoys, that is why I started the advocacy of reconciliation minus domination equals to restructure, that is my new advocacy.
Briefly access the APC led government for the past one year and five months?
I don’t want to even talk about political parties but how Nigeria can be develop through technology, agriculture and discovery of other solid minerals. What we need in this country is permanent electricity; I want Nigeria to alternate electricity with petroleum. With electricity we will exceed abundantly. Without constant electricity there will be no productive agriculture and technology, let us not discuss APC and PDP because they are insignificant to the development of this country. Do you want me to believe that APC will change Nigeria when 70% of those in it were PDP members before 2015. Are you calling someone like former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Senator Bukola Saraki, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara APC messiahs? Why are you separating APC from PDP, they are the same party, it’s just a nomenclature title of change of name. So you don’t have to tell me whether APC can handle Nigeria for the next four years, what positive impact do you think they can do to the country when they are the same old members of the PDP.
Due to the recession, the National Assembly recently called on Mr. President to rejig his cabinet, what is your take on this?
Why the call on him to rejig his cabinet, what is he going to rejig for, is it for efficiency, capital productivity or for what. The current cabinet of President Buhari is 75% PDP members, so how many times do you expect the president to rejig before the expiration of his tenure. If you say are saying the country was destroyed by PDP for the past 16 years and 50% of your ministers are PDP, who then are you fooling?
What then is the way out of the recession?
Mr. President should handle the economy to the private sector to rejuvenate. The way forward is permanent electricity; let’s disabuse our mind from petroleum to electricity. We are talking about bio and solar technology, 45% of cars in the United States of America are electric powered cars while in Germany 60% are electric powered cars. Give us electricity and not democracy and petroleum because the world is moving ahead. A flight recently left Doha in Qatar in the Middle East for 13:30hrs to the United States with 14 passengers’ in an unmanned Solar Powered Aeroplane. Buhari should give us electricity and Nigeria will prosper.
What is your comment on the ongoing budget padding issue bedeviling the National Assembly?
There is nothing like padding in the budget. When I say we don’t have anything like padding in the budget, it’s a very simple thing, it is the duty of the executive to bring their proposal to the National Assembly, and it’s the function and constitutional right of the National Assembly to remove, add, input, include, make corrections of what the president brought to the house. If as a legislator you noticed that nothing in your constituency was inputted in the budget, don’t you have the right to protest. If you give 50% priority to the north, what stops you from giving same 50% to the southern region by virtue of the federal character? What Yakubu Dogara did was that he scrutinized the budget and found out that the area he came from, much attention was not given to it in the budget and of course he added to it, what is wrong in doing that? It is the principle of the legislator all over the globe to screen, delete and add to the budget that is not padding. With this ongoing padding issue, I am very convinced that many Nigerians are yet to know the tenets of democratic politics; they are very ignorant of the legislative business. There is nothing like budget padding in the legislative arm, they only screen, remove and add. If a legislative arm receives budget proposal and passed it without screening, removing and adding, it will be called a rubber stamp house. What Yakubu Dogara did was very okay, it is the duty of Abdulmumin Jibrin to alert his colleagues of all wrongs before passage of the budget. Assuming he raised alarm and told Mr. Speaker that the projects he added were much, and advised him to spread them, it could have been better, not after the passage of the budget and he started crying wolf of budget padding. I am disappointed in Jibrin, I wonder the kind of school he attended. I think Jibrin is crying over splitted milk, I believe he is jealous of Mr. Speaker, if not he could have made his observations as chairman of appropriation committee before the passage of the budget. If at all that the security agents should investigate issues surrounding the budget then it must be Jibrin. In line with this I call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of Jibrin.
Recently, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal went against the restructuring of Nigeria, what is your view on this?
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has never been a good legislator, when he was at the National Assembly, he was advocating for the restructuring of the country but now that he is a governor, he is now going against it. He is just trying to execute his phobia of fear. It shows that he has no focus to rule the state. This is the only country in the world where state governors go to the federal government to collect allocation that is not real federalism; we are not practicing federalism in Nigeria but unitary system of government. True federalism is when you allow the states to discover themselves and pay some revenue to the central to run foreign affairs, Central Bank, Supreme Court, Ministry of Internal and External Affairs and Defence. While the rest are handled by the state government at their own capacity, there are a lot of mineral deposits in Sokoto state but just because he is a lazy governor, he wants to continue to depend on cheap money from the federal government. Tambuwal should rejig himself and discover the potentials of Sokoto state. I am disappointed in Tambuwal as a friend.
Briefly comment on Mr. President recently launched ‘change begins with me’ programme?
If Mr. President want us to believe in his change begins with me programme then he should reduce Aso Rock private jets to two instead of nine. Restrict his travel abroad with lesser entourage. He should go to our hospitals here for medicals and not hospitals in USA and London. His colleagues that attended the recent UN conference went there with less than five delegates but he went there with over 40 delegates. The governors and some ministers that went with him have no role to play there. The conference was met for Presidents and not ministers nor governors. His recent movement to the UN was a waste and against the policy of change begins with me.
Insecurity is on the high side in the country, with the activities of Boko Haram, IPOB, MASSOB, Niger Delta Militants and Fulani Herdsmen, what do you advise the government to do to come out of it?
My advice to the president is to withdraw all security personnel attached to civilians and politicians and use them to police the streets. That is the solution to insecurity in Nigeria.
The Federal Government recently called on the militants to seize fire to create room for dialogue, after much appeal from stakeholders, they seized fire for some weeks, in that interval the Federal Government started arresting some of the militants which made them to renege on their seize fire agreement and started bombing of oil facilities again, what is your take on this?
The solution still remains dialogue with the federal government; I don’t support sabotage of our natural resources. As an environmentalist and a stakeholder, I am against bombing of pipelines, because there are decades of aftermath effects on the environment. I prefer the dialogue process of the federal government but in a situation you issue threat during dialogue, I am against that. I want total reconciliation where the militants will come up with their grievances and channel it properly to the government. I am against the zigzag dialogue process; things must be done in a normal form. The militants does not know the negative effect of these bombings on the environment, crude oil has more than 100 byproducts, it is also associated with multiple diseases, either through plants, water and air. I am not a party to bombing of pipelines as a yardstick to draw the attention of the federal government to the neglect of the Niger Delta. We want dialogue through capable men with impeccable character, not 419ers. There are a lot of erudite young men in the Niger Delta that can discuss with the federal government for final solution to militancy in the area not past political office holders who will go for the dialogue for selfish reasons.
What is your comment on the grievances of the NDGJM who focused on bombing of oil facilities on the upland over alleged recognition of only Ijaws in the Niger Delta by the Federal Government?
I am an advocate of dialogue, and my tribes, the Urhobos are not use to pipeline vandalization in the upland of Delta state. Spillage only happens through bad pipeline and not sabotage. That is why I have been of the advocacy for the oil servicing companies to always change their pipes from time to time. I don’t think the NDGJM are Urhobos, there are some persons from other tribes who want to include us in their illicit act. Even the Niger Delta Avengers is not made up of only Ijaws as I have made to know. They are made of tribes from the south south and maybe south east. I don’t think the federal government recognizes only Ijaws in the Niger Delta. The advocacy of every militant group had been for the Niger Delta and not Ijaws or Urhobos but all tribes in the Niger Delta. So any group of persons thinking that the struggle is for only Ijaws is wrong because there are many ways of agitation and not through bombings of oil facilities alone. It is very primitive to bomb oil facilities in the name of agitation. The Niger Delta Avengers and NDGJM should come out and drop their arms, and I know Mr. President will definitely receive them.
Are you in support of Mr. President on ban on importation of food products like rice and others?
I am in support of Mr. President to put a ban on importation of rice and other food products. What is rice that we cannot produce? I am advocating for the total ban of generators and food products importation into the country.
What are your reasons?
Because we have enough land, human resources, capital and everything needed to produce food to sustain us. Were we importing rice in the 60s, why the sudden importation of rice? If Mr. President has lifted the ban, he should reinforce it. Have we not been eating Ekpoma rice before now, I know very well that with scarcity, we will discover our talent. Even the noodles we import can be produced with cassava flour locally here.
With what you have said so far, do you think we still have reasons to celebrate democracy come October 1st?
We should not celebrate; we go into sober reflection and think of the way forward. What are we going to celebrate, is it doom, those killed by Boko Haram and the destroyed pipelines or the blackout in the country or the hunger ravaging every nooks and cranny in the country. Is it because we can speak English like the British that we are going to celebrate or what? There is no reason to celebrate.
What is your view on Mr. President’s anti-corruption crusade?
The president should move on with the development of this country and play down on drive against past corrupt leaders. He should just block leakages and move on. He said the system was corrupt that was why he contested for the presidency but what we are seeing now is retrogressive of all the good things we have manage to achieve in the past. The Nigeria economy is down and he is talking about corruption when we cannot feed properly. I advise him to discard his anti-corruption crusade and focus on the development of Nigeria economy.