•‘PDP marketers behind petrol scarcity’
By Dennis Udoma, Uyo
A former Petroleum Minister, Chief Don Etiebet, is optimistic that President Muhammadu Buhari’s chances of winning re-election in 2019 are very bright, citing the pattern of voting across the country that will favour him. In this interview, the Chairman of Akwa Ibom APC Caucus also speaks on other national issues. Excerpts:
The el-Rufai Committee of the APC on Restructuring submitted its report to the Federal Government following which Akwa Ibom PDP leaders lampooned the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government for contemplating the re-introduction of the onshore/offshore oil dichotomy in the country. What’s your comment?
I don’t think that is what the committee meant. The problem of onshore/offshore oil dichotomy is settled in the sense that where offshore production occurs within 240 nautical miles belongs to littoral states. So, I believe that what the committee meant may be oil discovered or produced outside that isobar boundary, not within.
And if you look at the committee’s report, they didn’t mention anything about the area within the 240 isobar. So, let nobody be deceived. If anything is done to get near towards that area, we shall oppose it vehemently.
2019 general elections are around the corner and PDP members are campaigning against the return of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the nation has not made progress under his administration. What do you think?
Such a statement is unfortunate. I have played politics in Nigeria for decades and I know about politics inside out. I left this country before the civil war and, since I came back in 1978, I have been involved in politics; from the time of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to the period of up the National Republican Convention (NRC) and this moment, and I have never seen an administration or a President that has done as much as Buhari has done to reposition this country for progress. This country in the 50s had an economy that was better than those of Malaysia and South Korea.
We had more tarred roads. Most of what those countries have done now is because of good leadership. From independence we never had good leadership. In fact, the only time we had good leadership was in 1983/84 when this same Buhari toppled Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s government and brought about some level of sanity. Even the crude oil that we depend on, it was when Buhari came into office in 1984 as Head of State that he identified the source of corruption in the oil industry as illegal bunkering. Many governments in the past, even up till the last government, have been supporting illegal bunkering. I am a former Minister of Petroleum and I know the details.
The oil spills in the South-South that have become an international problem now are caused by illegal bunkering. They are not caused by oil producers. The oil producers don’t lay pipes to transport crude oil or products and then go by themselves to cut those pipes and spill the oil. Two, if you can tell me that there is ever a government in this country that has done enough to stop corruption or mend the defective electoral process in the country since independence, let me know. This is first time we have a government that has taken all necessary steps to bring about good government. That is not to say that the people are okay. You cannot stop endemic corruption in the country that has been with us since independence overnight.
But he has created an atmosphere of fear for people not to be as corrupt as before. Look at what is happening in the case of Treasury Single Account (TSA); all of those trillions of Naira in the bank now through the TSA, where was it before? Public servants were taking all the money and nothing was saved. The country has been able to come out of recession because President Buhari has been able to get these monies that would have been looted. The Minister of Finance the others went to New York and said that the former government left an empty treasury and the people so accused have not come out to say they didn’t up till now. And you have also heard about all the monies looted in the Ministry of Petroleum. You have heard about all the monies looted in the Ministry of Defense which were meant to fight Boko-Haram but they didn’t use them. The Bible says “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you”.
The Kingdom of God to reposition Nigeria for economic growth is to bring corruption to zero level. It may not get to zero level but can be reduced to a level that can allow development. So many things have to be reprogrammed, restructured and repositioned for the country to progress and you cannot achieve that overnight. But President Buhari has laid the foundation for achieving that and that is why I am supporting him. Since 2003 when President Buhari first entered the presidential election, he has had a base of support that you cannot dismantle. Nobody in this country can match Buhari in that base. Mr. President has a base of 12 million voters and, whatever people say, cannot be dismantled. In 2003, go and check the records, 12 million votes; 2006, 12 million; 2014, 12 million; 2015, 12 million, plus the top up from the South –West that didn’t vote for him before; like Kano which was PDP before, and Jigawa that was PDP before. Second, in 2003 the three southern zones, during election time under former President Obasanjo, declared only 880,000 votes for Buhari and declared over 12 million votes for Obasanjo. I was there and I stopped the announcement of the results because I said it was not proper and correct.
So, with that base, he already has that which you cannot toy with, and there is no candidate from the North that can go to Borno and get one vote, go to Sokoto and get one vote, go to Kano and get one vote. That base is there and the voters are there and you can’t dismantle them over night. Now, he is coming to the South – East which has a problem of not supporting him before. Mr. President has said, “you gave me 198,000 votes and, I am giving you four strong first class ministries” and they now said, “we are now turning over to you in 2019”. Former Governor Chime of Enugu, who gave him only 50,000 votes in 2015, is now in APC and all other persons are now in APC. In Akwa Ibom, we gave him hundreds of thousands of votes but there was no election and we fought that in the court. So, you will see that he is going to win the 2019 election overwhelmingly.
There is insinuation that the APC is divided in Akwa Ibom. Is there any faction?
What faction? There is no faction in Akwa Ibom APC. Even in your house, you can disagree with your children maybe because the food you shared was not equal. There is absolutely no faction in the party in the state.
You must have seen former Presidents Obasanjo and Babangida’s letters to President Buhari. Do you see them as any threat to Buhari’s re-election?
No threat at all. They are “Bad Belle” letters. Everybody knows because they always want to be relevant.
What is your expectation of APC in Akwa Ibom come 2019?
We will win the election and take over the Hill – Top Mansion decisively. APC is going to win this state massively because we are going to do election. PDP has never won election in this state without rigging. The only election that was conducted in this state was the one I conducted in 1999 for Obong Victor Attah. In that election, Obong Attah scored over 700,000 votes. Obong Akpan Isemin, the other candidate in the poll, scored 400,000 votes. So, there was voting at that time. Since then, tell me where any opponent of the governor in Akwa Ibom scored 1/3 of what the winner scored because, they would lock up the Returning Officers in some houses and point guns on their heads and force them to sign the forms, announce the results and say “let’s go to court”. That is what they have been doing before but to God be the glory, they are not going to be able to do that now. And you are asking me if APC will win? We are going to win 100 percent.
As a former Petroleum Minister, could you proffer solution to the current fuel crisis in the country?
Who are still controlling the petroleum distribution in Nigeria? It is still the original PDP marketers. Now election time is coming and they are doing all kinds of things for petrol not to be available and what do they want? They want increase in petrol price so that they can use that against APC.