By Olalekan Bilesanmi
Alhaji Bashir Tofa is a businessman and politician. He came to limelight when he contested the 1993 presidential election with the late business mogul, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, in an election adjudged free and fair, but annulled by the military. Abiola was believed to have won the poll. In this interview, Tofa thinks the level of corruption in the country is sickening and, as such, believes that President Muhammadu Buhari is on the right path as he fights the ill head-long irrespective of the hues and cries that the fight is selective.
He takes a swipe at the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP, for its condemnation of the Federal Government and the judiciary over the on going election tribunal judgments, saying only fools make accusations without proof.
What is your impression so far about the Buhari government in the light of the confirmed ministers?
I think, on the whole, President Buhari has done well and that is expected. Anybody who enters a house and just begins to live in it without checking the structure and the leakages and doing something to do some repair, that house may collapse on him if it is structurally deficient. President Buhari now knows more about the condition of the house,he is making some repairs, strengthening some pillars, blocking some leakages, and can now be said to be ready to settle down and do what is needful. Hopefully, the ministers will be given their portfolios by mid-November; they will quickly move to their ministries, examine things, review the draft budgets for their ministries; a final budget will be agreed upon by the Executive Council and presented to the National Assembly – all before the end of December. Hopefully, the National Assembly will not waste time, knowing the poor state of the nation.
The PDP senators walked out of the chamber in protest against the confirmation of former River Governor Rotimi Amaechi.What do you make of the drama?
Well, it was just the normal mischief and envy by those who fear Amaechi becoming a minister, after two successful terms as governor of Rivers State. Surely, he has enemies and, if you noticed, objections that are received in respect of some of the nominees were from their home states. Remember what Jesus (peace be upon him) said: “A prophet is not popular in his own country”. But Rotimi Amaechi is a good man, hard working and friendly to those who know him well. Again, he was right about the rigged elections in Rivers State. The tribunal has vindicated him.
The Buhari government appears serious about fighting corruption as seen in the CCT prosecution of Senate President Bukola Saraki and a former Minister of the Niger Delta,Elder Orubebe. Do you think the drive can be sustained given that previous governments got enmeshed in the corruption they preached against?
The government is serious about fighting all corruption cases that are known, and is digging deep into investigating those that are suspected to have played some roles, so the investigation is essentially to find the truth. The level of corruption in Nigeria is beyond greed, it is a sickness. But, we all demand that due process has to be followed and justice done to each case, whether it was a matter of suspicion or it was actually done. People are worried about Senator Bukola’s case, because it appears he is the only former governor accused of this particular serious crime. Investigators will do well to show that it is not so and to spread their searchlight on others, otherwise the impression will be justified. In any case, care needs to be taken so as not to go beyond the limits.
Some people have said the Senate President’s prosecution by the CCT is more of witch-hunting than fighting corruption. What is your impression?
That is exactly what I have just said. But I will not call it witch-hunting, because all witches need to be hunted down before they suck the life out of everyone. I will rather call it a vendetta against opponents. We wish that is not the case in respect of Senator Bukola Saraki.
Do you think the December deadline given by the Federal Government to the military to get rid of the Boko Haram terrorists is feasible?
Deadlines may be a little too risky for missions like this, especially where there is insufficient intelligence and preparation at the time they were given. But any endeavour to which no time frame is set for result is not a serious endeavour. Having said this, we must not forget that the President was a general and a Commander who actually fought wars in Congo. He knows exactly what he is doing and why he gave such a deadline. Gladly, we still have two months to the end of December, and, by the grace of God, we will see tremendous success before then. The military is now ready and motivated and morale is very high. We pray they beat the deadline.
The election tribunal judgments have been trailed by mixed feelings. Is there any of the judgments that surprised you and why?
No. I wish the judges well, and hope justice will always be done in each case.
The PDP has said the APC-led Federal Government is using the judiciary to procure judgments for it which some people believe is mere political talk as claimed by the APC Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, as it is not backed with facts.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed is absolutely right. Only fools make accusations without proof. I suggest the judiciary views this accusation with serious anger.
Do you think the marginalization song by the South-east, particularly in this Buhari government, is valid?
I have not heard any sensible and responsible Igbo man making such accusations. It was just the ranting of some fanatics, who always want us to see ourselves in tribal and religious garbs. After all these years together, it is a shame that we are still unable to shed these identities and become Nigerians. The more we continue this way, the more harm we inflict on our national unity and progress. I am sure President Buhari’s main consideration is not WHO a person is, but WHAT that person can deliver to the Nigerian people. I have long advocated that we must stop being a country of “You know WHO, but a country of you know WHAT’.
You have been unusually quiet. Why this ‘sidon look’ posture? Any reason behind it and don’t you think we may end up being disappointed about Buhari’s ministers because we are expecting too much from them?
Well, there are people who talk because they have to talk. And, there are others who talk because they must talk. I am of the latter. On President Buhari’s ministerial choices, there are of course those who are excellent and those who are good. But we will not know for sure until we see their performance in due course. I will only advise that the ministers be told that their appointment is on probationary period of one year. They will be assessed after the first six months and either be warned or encouraged. The second assessment will be at the end of their first year in office. Those who do not perform or are found wanting must go. President Buhari, with all the expectations on him, local and international, cannot afford lazy, unimaginative and greedy ministers who do not perform.