Chairman of the Niger Delta Nationalities Forum, Seigha Manager has said that the threat by members of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF)
to drag the former chief of army staff, Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, clearly shows that they are the real sponsors of the Boko Haram Islamist sect.
Manager, who said President Goodluck Jonathan has done well to deserve a second term in office, also warned that any attempt by any person or group of persons to deny Jonathan the right to contest in 2015 will cause chaos in the polity.
In this interview, he speaks on a number of issues.
Do you think President Goodluck Jonathan has done well to deserve a second term in office?
I think he has done well and when you measure the performance of a person, you have to do that side-by-side with the performances of that nature within the same period. Everybody knows that former President Obasanjo spent his first four years in office from 1999 to 2003, traversing the whole world. Of course, you cannot blame him because Nigeria was a pariah country at the time. The CommonWealth of Nations had banned Nigeria when the former Head of State, late Gen Abacha killed Ken Saro-Wiwa. So, Obasanjo spent between 1999 and 2003 trying to get the rest of the international community to begin to now believe in Nigeria. If you look at the personnel that worked with Obasanjo at that time, you can remember people like Anenih, Ciroma, Danjuma and others.
These were people who are supposed to be fathers of minsters but they were the ministers then, so not much was achieved. In his second term, Obasanjo was able to sit down and that was when people like Ribadu, Okonjo-Iweala, Ezekwesili, El-Rufai and the rest of them came on board. They gave some light to his government and that was about two years to the end of his tenure. Of course, that was why he tried to come back through the failed third term project. When Yar’Adua took over from him in 2007, he also spent the first two years trying to sort out his personal health and at the same time trying to correct some of the wrong things he met.
So, Yar’Adua’s portfolio too was a very good one but when you look at Jonathan, you see the difference between a properly educated person and a politician. Jonathan is an academic. He started by ensuring that the right personnel work with him. So, you can see that a lot of technocrats are in his government. It takes quite a long time for serious planning. Somebody who wants to achieve must ensure he has good planning. Recall too that over $16 billion was spent for upgrading our electricity during the Obasanjo administration and all went down the drain. But, Jonathan has taken his time within the first two years to ensure that the first and most important thing was to repackage the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). He has successfully done that; PHCN is now in the hands of private owners. So, Nigerians can, within the next six months, be sure of between 12 to 18 hours of uninterrupted power supply. And those are the things that will truly show that he has succeeded. Now, if you want to truly measure Jonathan, you must not do that by his person because he is an introverted person.
He is not the extroverted type that talks a lot about his achievements. He is a man who works through sectors. He is not a man who goes from house to house giving money to people, non-governmental organisations or groups making noise but a man who works through sectors. That is why his performance in the aviation sector is now visible. Nigerians can also see what is happening in the agricultural sector and people can criticise it. Nigerians can see that electricity is epileptic but it has shown progress. If you look at the transport sector, you now see clearly that a lot of gigantic work is being put in place. So, Jonathan is putting structures all over Nigeria and you must move from point A to B to know that he is actually doing something. But, those who sit where they are to say that nothing is happening are actually those who are just relying on secondary information. We also know another category of people who are saying that he has not done well. These are people who have been benefiting from the system in one way or the other but because some of the loopholes and leakages from where they benefited in the past have all been blocked, such people are now ploughing back the little money left with them into the press and making a lot of noise that he is not doing well. I can categorically tell you that one of the problems that Jonathan has is his information management machinery. Without prejudice to the minister of information, I think there is more that the minister can do because selling the president and his activities is a big job; far bigger than what any of the ministers is doing in his or her own personal ministry. It takes the minister of information to tell Nigerians what aviation, agriculture, defence, power, health, education and other ministries are doing.
Can you say that Jonathan’s government has really addressed the three basic needs of man –food, clothing and shelter for the average Nigerian?
This is one of the misconceptions that we have. Food, clothing and shelter are the primary needs of man and these needs ought to be provided at the third tier of government. The Federal Government is not supposed to be held responsible for the survival of Nigerians at the family level. What is the local government chairman doing? What is the state governor doing? Of course housing, yes, the Federal Government should have been directly involved in that but you also know the politics that come with housing in Nigeria. What Jonathan government is doing is to provide the atmosphere and not necessarily getting the Federal Government involved in providing housing because the Nigeria factor is always there.
Has government provided the enabling environment?
Yes, it has. Remember that when the former Housing minister, Miss Amah Pepple was there. What they spent all their time doing was to galvanise the mortgage industry and the banks to ensure that the ordinary Nigerian had access to mortgage loan, so that you can build for yourself rather than the Federal Government giving money to certain people and they would build houses that are not habitable.
But has that produced any result?
Successfully, what it has produced is a $300 billion loan from China. That is the result of what that has done. It started from Amah Pepple’s time and when the president went to China and the Chinese government saw the potentials in what the Federal Government was doing to provide housing, they became interested because that is what happens in China. In China, it is not the government that is building houses; it only provides mortgage and that is why a new mortgage re-financing was recently launched in Nigeria. The aim is to reach ordinary Nigerians. So, no Federal Government official will be holding any money and asking the whole of his town or village people to come and benefit. People will be benefiting through where they work, at the primary or secondary levels; through the local or state governments or as a federal worker. Providing that platform is the most important thing that we have always lost. In the past, a head of state or president will personally give it to his cronies and they will mess it up. Before you know what is happening, billions of money have gone to people without the structure succeeding. You recall that during the Abacha time, Lateef Jakande, who is renowned for providing shelter for his people in Lagos was the minister for Works and Housing. I was a civil servant then and we all contributed money towards the housing scheme but because the Federal Government was directly involved, the money never came and Jakande never built a single house. Those are the type of things that Jonathan is trying to avoid; that’s why I said he is working with experts in their various areas.
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has just threatened to drag the immediate past chief of army staff, Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes during the military onslaught on the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East. What is your take on that?
The Niger Delta Nationalities Forum as a group wants to say that Lt-Gen Ihejirika is not from the Niger Delta but he brought a lot of positive developments to the Armed forces and that is why Jonathan’s government has succeeded in curtailing the activities of Boko Haram to a small section of the North. We want to urge those who are masquerading as members of NEF to take Ihejirika to ICC at The Hague. We will be happy if they do so and we’ll also urge them to make their names known. They shouldn’t send their organisational name alone; they should also be bold to list all the members of that organisation to the ICC, so that we, in turn, will use that opportunity to know them and submit their names before the United Nations and the United States of America. Recall that America had already classified Boko Haram as a terrorist group . And Jonathan’s government has been battling the Boko Haram insurgents. From a N4.9 trillion budget, one trillion goes to security just to battle Boko Haram alone and Nigerians are the worst for it. Today, instead of praising Ihejirika who had successfully resticted the group to a very tiny area in the North, NEF is saying he committed crimes against humanity. If that is what they truly mean, we are prepared to submit their names before the UN as the sponsors of Boko Haram. We know very well that former President Babangida, former heads of state; Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as Maitama Sule are not members of that group. So, if these renowned northern leaders are not part of such group, who then are those people who call themselves leaders of that group? We believe that they are the sponsors of Boko Haram and we want them to carry out that threat.
Former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife recently added his voice to those who warned that Nigeria would boil if Jonathan is not allowed to contest the 2015 presidential election. How does your group see those threats or warnings?
As a group from the Niger Delta, we are appealing to Nigerians that as Niger Deltans, we have paid our dues. We have supported every government led by the northerners or westerners from independence to date. It is either by coincidence or accident that a Niger Delta person became the president of Nigeria and we thank all Nigerians for the opportunity. We also think that giving Jonathan another four years will not cause Nigeria any harm; it will only unite Nigeria further and give us a sense of belonging that we are also part of Nigeria.
However, if any group, in the name of NEF or whatever insists on denying Jonathan his fundamental human rights of contesting for a second term, we can assure them that the Niger Delta will not be part of that Nigeria which they think they will use our resources to project. In simple terms, if they do that, everybody is going to answer his own name. If Jonathan is allowed to contest the election like any other Nigerian and Nigerians as a people decide not to choose Jonathan in the polls, there is nothing anybody can do about that because Nigerians have spoken. It is who Nigerians want that will be the president of Nigeria. So, if Jonathan contests election and Nigerians refuse to elect him as the president, so be it.
By SUNDAY ANI