BY Henry Umoru

Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, has since his informal exit from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP transformed into one of the leading voices of the opposition. A chieftain of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Mallam El-Rufai in an interview reviews the performances of the Goodluck Jonathan administration and profers his suggestions. Excerpts:

DO you agree with the PDP that the federal administration has delivered on its promises?
Yes, they have delivered on insecurity, they have delivered on insolvency of the federal government, they have delivered on the division in the country, they have delivered on depletion of social capital; I don’t know what they are celebrating. I think they can celebrate because they stole 2 trillion of subsidy money and they are stealing some billions in pension.

I think they have delivered, but for themselves not for the Nigerian people. The PDP and Jonathan have every reason to celebrate because they have wiped out our foreign reserves, wiped out excess crude account and they all own houses in Abuja and Lagos. So, they have every reason to celebrate but go to the local market and ask many Nigerians whether the plight of this year is better than the plight of last year and the answer will be very clear. Nigeria has become much worse under Jonathan’s watch. So, I don’t know what they are celebrating.

Do you imply that Nigerians are regretting voting in Jonathan?
I don’t know. Every Nigerian must have a view on this. I don’t think his no shoe story and all that got him elected. I don’t think he was elected, I think they rigged their way into power and if they were using the power for good, it will not be too bad.

Waiting for God’s judgment
But the power is being used to perpetrate fraud against 168 million people and those that voted for him should ask themselves whether they have done the right thing and those of us that did not vote for him but our votes were stolen and added to him. We are waiting for God’s judgment.

Do you believe the opposition is strong enough to take power from the PDP?
When the time comes, the opposition will be strong enough. People think the opposition is just political parties, those who think so are in the dream land; opposition is Nigerian people, Nigerians whose lives have been much traumatized, that is the opposition and at the level of political institutions, we are here to organize our ourselves into a united and formidable opposition, I hope we get there.

Mallam El- Rufai

How organized are you the opposition parties?
We are organizing, I don’t want to say more than that.

Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark had said while marking his birthday that Jonathan will contest in 2015. As a northerner, what is your take on this?

I am not a Northerner, I am a Nigerian. I don’t see myself as a Northerner, I don’t like those affiliations; I don’t believe in that, I believe I am a Nigerian and I see every Nigerian from whatever part, language and religion as a brother. Again, that is what is wrong about our country. I don’t think the constitution disqualifies Jonathan from contesting, I don’t see any problem in that.

Only the constitution and the electoral acts defines who can run and who cannot run and I don’t see anything in the constitution that disqualified Jonathan from running, but what he is not entitled to do is to rig the election and impose himself on Nigerians because if that happens we will respond.

It is as simple as that. You can deceive me once, but I will not allow you to deceive me twice. If you deceive me once, then the next time you do it, I will react. That is it. Edwin K. Clark is entitled to his views and I agree with them because any Nigerian who is above the age of 30 with a secondary school certificate is qualified to run for president and unless he runs more than twice. So, he is entitled to run.

How far has the CPC gone in reforming itself?
The CPC is young, we were registered in 2009 and before we could settle down, we had to contest election and yet, our presidential candidate got over 12 million real votes, not the Jonathan fake votes.  We have organizational issues in the party as a young party, we are not 13 years like the PDP, we are just 3 years, so, these kinds of issues can happen and we are addressing them and part of what I am doing is to get some of these issues sorted out and we are working on them. The party is working on its internal problems and we will overcome all these issues to ensure that PDP stops destroying Nigeria.

Back to the government, as a former Minister you worked with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, where do you think in the next one or two years the government should concentrate on and Nigerians will be happy for it before the next election?

There are three or four fundamental issues where this government has failed woefully in the last 2, 3 years because Jonathan has been around not for one year, but for about three years. They have failed in providing security for the people which is the primary reason for having a government. They should look at what they have been doing in the last one year and correct it. That is one. Second, they have not managed the economy well.

This country is broke, the federal government is unable to pay federation allocation on time, they are unable to pay salaries on time, we are in May, April salaries have not been paid.  There should be reduction in level of corruption and fraud in the amount of fund leakages so that the liquidity in the economy will be restored. Stealing should not be the full time job of people in government. They should work and manage the economy.

The third is that these endless promises to improve the electricity must stop and deliver some results. Electricity generation has not improved from the level we left it which is about 3,200 megawatts in April 2007. It has not changed; in fact it has gone down once in a while.  Finally, they should think of the 6 million babies we make every year and begin to think of their future. People without hope are capable of anything; the government should level the playing field. These are the four areas I will advice them to look at. I am not their Adviser.

Will the North allow President Jonathan to run in 2015?
It is not up to the North or anyone to allow anyone to decide, Nigerians decide who they want as President and there was great consensus at a time that the presidency should be ceded to the South and no credible Northerner contested the office. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

These are some of the decisions people make for the unity, peace and good governance of the country. I don’t believe we should be selecting our presidents on the basis of where they come from. I have said this overtime, I think we should look for the best qualified person for the job and where you have a decent person doing the right thing, everybody benefits – North, South, East and West, Muslims and Christian, Hausa, Igbo Yoruba, Ijaw, everyone, we can all benefit from good governance.

Your former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo recently decried the level of corruption where he was quoted to have alleged that members of the National Assembly are rogues and armed robbers, do you agree with him?

President Obasanjo is a very thoughtful and experienced person, I am sure before he made the statement, he had the facts and I think Nigerians know what he meant and they all know the National Assembly members, the allowances they take that they are illegal. Obasanjo knows what he is talking about. I don’t believe that everyone in the National Assembly is bad, there are many decent people there but there is something wrong with the National Assembly. I don’t know what Obasanjo said but whatever he said, he must have his reasons and his facts.

How would you access the 7th National Assembly?
Disappointing, for me this National Assembly has not done much. There are many legislations that have been lying there forever like the Petroleum Industry Bill which has been in the National Assembly since 2008. The most important legislation that will reshape our oil industry has been lying there. It was the Senate that first had the resolution on investigation of fuel subsidy fund, but at the end, it was the House of Representatives that took the lead and did good work in that regard.

I think the overall performance is disappointing though I will say Farouk Lawan has helped elevate the quality of the House of Representatives. I think under Tambuwal, the House of Representatives has become more reflective of the wishes of Nigerians than the Senate.

What do you think should be the outcome of the report from the House of Representatives?
I think a few things are clear, the report identified the companies that collected public funds without supplying anything. I think they should be asked to refund that money back before you go any further. You don’t need any investigation. But no action is being taken along that line. I heard that the anti-corruption agency has got the report and I do hope that all those involved in doing the wrong things will be brought to justice as quickly as possible.

On Boko Haram, what is the way forward?
I don’t know it is a complicated issue with many dimensions. Unless you have all the information, it is very difficult to make any permutations and conclusions, but what I do know for sure is that the current practices of the government have failed. There are strong suspicions among us that the government is behind some of these violence including Boko Haram and the government has not done anything to apprehend some of those behind the violence.

They are losing the battle in the heart and minds of the community where the so called Boko Haram is supposedly operating and I think they need to rethink their strategies. The government should stop it, they should stop complaining and they should stop behaving as if they are victims and just solve the problem.

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