Chief Don Etiebet, former Minister of Petroleum Resources and front-line politician in Akwa-Ibom in this interview stated few things the incoming Buhari Administration must do upon assuming office in May 29.
He further said he believes the Buhari administration will cut down the cost of governance and with strict adherence to the rule of law, will gradually turn the fortunes of economy around. Etiebet is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Excerpts:
By Gbenga Oke
What are your expectations from this new government?
Yes, I believe in General Muhammadu Buhari as a person who God has given to Nigeria at these trying times to save Nigeria, to get Nigeria working again and to reposition Nigeria and change her face in the comity of nations for respect and seriousness of purpose in tackling the ills of the country.
Having worked with him in the past as the National Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), I believe he will make Nigeria a different place where security, economy, discipline and the rule of law will abound to contain corruption. I only pray that Nigerians would understand him and give him the necessary support in the face of challenges and difficulties to put his programmes through unimpeded.
My expectations from his government are very much captured in his resolve to fight corruption and insecurity, and to rejuvenate the economy. I would like to add, that one of the cardinal things he must do would be to reposition INEC in all its ramifications to conduct free, fair, credible, violent free and acceptable elections because he suffered the pangs of rigged elections thrice to become president. So he should use this opportunity to put in place the machinery for credible elections always. Faulty elections are at the basic roots of all democratic short comings in this country.
What are the urgent steps you feel the General Buhari led government should address immediately it is inaugurated?
On this question, I would like to note first that there are many landmines laid for him which if he steps on them directly, they would explode disastrously on his face. The first is the petrol (PMS) supply situation. The outgoing government is owing the importers and marketers hundreds of billions of Naira which they are not likely to pay before May 29th. And there is no money in the kitty to pay when he takes over with dwindling foreign exchange reserve, lost crude oil production, falling crude oil prices, huge debts overhang, the clamour by certain interest groups in the country not to remove the petrol subsidy and salary debts by many states. But there must be petrol at the filling stations otherwise the country cannot survive a week. I can tell you that salaries can wait for a month but lack of petrol cannot.
So I see what to do here as CATCH 22, and it is the greatest challenge of what to do immediately he is sworn in. I see it as the first button to press and it must be pressed right.
If I were in his shoes, I would call the NLC and TUC leaders immediately to a one-on-one meeting soon after I say “SO HELP ME GOD” to dialogue to allow/let me tell the Importers and Marketers to Import the petroleum products (PMS, AGO, DPK,) I hear that there is no aviation fuel too to sell at market prices meanwhile as I dialogue on how to pay their debts and get all the refineries working optimally for local production. We can decide on appropriate pricing of the products that would benefit the masses and the economy alike, pleading with them to understand the circumstances and appreciating their sacrifices for giving me time to settle down.
With that in place and resolved, he can now start on how to dismantle the other landmines one by one.
Do you see this wind of change blowing away the level of impunity we have seen so far in government?
Yes, I see the wind of change blowing and cleansing the institutions of government, starting from the Executive itself, the National Assembly and the Judiciary if he is still the Muhammadu Buhari I knew with strict adherence to discipline, rule of law and proper law administration with no “I beg you syndrome” in the administration of justice no matter whose ox is gored. All the impunity will disappear overnight and an atmosphere of fear not to commit crime will pervade the society as it happens in other countries.
Why do people commit suicide in some countries when they commit crime instead of waiting to face the law? And we respect those countries and would like to be like them.
Many Nigerians have argued that for this government to succeed, the cost in governance must be reduced. What is your take on that?
Every Nigerian knows that the costs of governance at the Executive and National Assembly institutions are absolutely inconsistent with our national revenue and productivity so much so that our recurrent expenditures always outweigh capital expenditure many times over. Muhammadu Buhari has a great opportunity to address the high cost of governance in the country while embarking on projects that will impact the masses’ lives greatly. The example must come first from the executive wing, we don’t need 100 vehicles following the President when he goes out. I can imagine the traffic jam when he stops at a traffic light as he said. As I know him to be personally very frugal, I would like him to bring his life style to bear on his governance to show example to other African presidents.
Of course you know in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the people like to copy their President’s style of life from clothing to cars to parties. I am sure General Buhari will change us for better for us to be better and more caring citizens.