By Olayinka Ajayi
Senator Yisa Braimoh (Edo North from 2007-2011) has been a recurring decimal in the nation’s political arena since the ill-fated third republic. He was a running mate on the National Republican Convention (NRC) gubernatorial ticket in Edo State in 1991; and was in the botched Abacha transition programme leader of the National Congress Party of Nigeria (NCPN). In this interview, he speaks, among others, on the achievements of the President Jonathan administration, the president’s second term in office and why Vice President Namadi Sambo should be retained on the re-election ticket. Excerpts:
How would you rate the performance of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration since stepping in the saddle on May 29, 2011?
Performance of successive governments in this country, talking about concrete achievements, is an open book that every Nigerian is able to see and read. Even for those who cannot read, they can see Jonathan’s performance all around, evident in the large numbers of critical physical infrastructure like roads, rail lines and remodeled airports, among others.
I will talk briefly and in general about these achievements: for instance, a total of 2000 kilometers of road were built or rehabilitated as at the end of 2013-the highest in a single year by any government; in the health sector, 1500 primary healthcare facilities have been refurbished and supplied with essential drugs while several teaching hospitals and medical centres have been rehabilitated and modernized; in the aviation sector, it is evident that for the first time in over three decades, all 22 federally-owned airports across the country are being remodeled, resulting in improved passenger experience while for the first time also, five modern international passenger terminals are being constructed simultaneously in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu.
In fact, obsolete power infrastructure is being replaced/upgraded across major airports in the country while there has been installation of cutting-edge navigational aids and Instruments Landing Systems (ILS), including runway lights and Total Radar Coverage (TRACON) in order to enhance air safety. In the agriculture sector, although it may not be visible to the eye, four decades of corruption in fertilizer and seed distribution has ended with direct access by farmers, thereby saving the government N25 billion in 2012 alone. There are many more achievements, resulting largely in the nation’s rebased economy with a GDP of $510 billion, which has made Nigeria’s economy the biggest on the continent of Africa and 26th in the world.
Does his performance put him in a good stead to win the nomination of his party-the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – and the 2015 presidential election?
Oh yes! The president will clinch the ticket of the party hands down based on his record of performance. There is no question about that; and history is also on his side. Since 1999 up till now, sitting presidents enjoy a huge head-start over other aspirants. Olusegun Obasanjo enjoyed that in 2003 when he was seeking for his second term in office. It is not going to be different with Jonathan. Like many Nigerians, I want him to seek re-election. In any case, the choice is his as he has the right of first refusal. But I can tell you that feelers from the grapevine are indicative of Jonathan’s readiness to exhaust his constitutionally-circumscribed right to contest in 2015.
After all, he had recently hinted of the possibility of throwing his hat in the ring to defend his position by seeking the votes of Nigerians for mandate renewal next year. I agree with him when he said during his last media chat that he is the defending champion and that pressure should be on the opposition elements to present their candidate. I am very confident that in 2015, Jonathan will lead the PDP to victory in the presidential election and other levels of elections in the country. The president is sharply-focused and he is incrementally delivering on his agenda to transform Nigeria despite the politically-motivated Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part. The insurgency was calculated to make Nigeria ungovernable and to largely distract the president, but to the chagrin of the forces of evil, the president has successfully taken on the responsibility of ending the insurgency and restoring peace in the north of the country.
Some forces in the PDP have been quietly plotting for a presidential ticket without Vice President Namadi Sambo as the running mate. Will a change of running mate for the 2015 presidential contest be necessary?
Jonathan-Namadi Sambo ticket is a winning ticket any day. Do you change a winning team? To change a winning team, especially after it has been tried, tested and found to be solid, is to engage in a very bad gamble. The team won in 2011 when it had not done much that it could comprehensively flaunt before Nigerians. I expect a more emphatic victory now that it has its imprimatur in a good number of achievements. Apart from the large-scale achievements of the Jonathan administration, I personally would like to locate and identify the peaceful ambience in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa as very important in the process of driving the Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan government. Sambo must be commended for his humility and loyalty to the President.
I make bold to say now and for all times that Sambo is an archetypical, humble and loyal vice president. He has shown incredible commitment to the success of the administration by investing massive support for the President, the Federal Government and our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is calm and does not show that he is desperate for power. I learnt that he was practically cajoled by former Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, to run for the governorship seat in Kaduna State. He was applying himself to governance in the state when in 2010, President Jonathan nominated him to be his Vice President after he (Jonathan) was sworn in as president following the death of then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He is the kind of vice president I would run with over and again if I were the president and had the opportunity of multiple terms of office.
The feelers from the political terrain in Edo State do not give room for comfort. Why is the political class trying to turn the State upside down?
Contrary to your take, it is actually one man who is trying to turn my State of Edo upside down; and that one man is Governor Adams Oshiomhole. In the face of the crumbling and dwindling fortunes of his Party, the APC and Government, Oshiomhole has become increasingly desperate for survival. It is very obvious that PDP’s continuing harvest of decamping APC leaders across board in Edo state is a direct result of Oshiomhole’s policy reversals, bad governance, persistent dictatorial tendencies and surprisingly negative political godfatherism. The governor has suddenly become a victim of his multiple errors of omission, commission and political miscalculations: for example, disenfranchising very many APC leaders by not allowing free and fair primaries in the conduct of the recent APC Congresses.
The APC tree in the State is now left standing without any branches. The people and electorate have now realised that Oshiomhole took them on a sentimental journey with nothing to show as political dividends except propaganda which does not put food on any table. Not a single industry has been facilitated in Edo State by Oshiomhole’s government for the teeming unemployed youths of the state. No doubt that the coast is now clear for PDP to take over the State Assembly in 2015 and Osadebey Avenue in 2016. The elements who helped to reinforce Oshiomhole’s hold on the State have left him. Many of them are now in the PDP: leaders like Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Chief Tom Ikimi, Senator Ehigie Uzamere, Hon West Idahosa, Chief Usman Shagaddy, Hon Abubakar Momoh, Chief Stanley Odidi, Hon Eshishie, members of the State House of Assembly, Commissioners and Special Advisers, and so many others. Edo will find its rhythm once again when PDP steps in the saddle of governance in the State in 2016.