By Onyedika Agbedo
Senator (Chief) Ighoyota Amori is a Special Adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Caretaker Committee Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. Amori had at various times served as Commissioner for Education and Water Resources in Delta State, among other positions. In this interview, he says the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government has failed woefully and advises Nigerians to be wise in choosing who leads them come 2019. He also speaks on the politics of his state and defections from the PDP, among other issues.
What is your assessment of the state of the nation?
The nation can be said to be sitting on a keg of gunpowder, waiting to explode. Presently, the nation has a President whose true health condition is being covered up by an alleged cabal controlling the affairs of government. A hungry man they say is an angry man. Majority of Nigerians are hungry and experiencing abject poverty with its attendant consequences. Lawlessness is becoming the order of the day with the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government not accepting responsibility for the security of lives and property of Nigerians.
The country as it is today lacks cohesion because of the kind of leadership being given by the APC at the centre. The APC must realise that campaigns are over and should therefore focus on delivering its electioneering promises to Nigerians. What is very disturbing to most Nigerians is that the APC in just two years in office has destroyed the democratic gains of successive PDP administrations.
If Nigeria should be great again, there has to be true federalism. A situation where few states feed majority of the states that make up the federation called Nigeria would continue to see the country going backward. Most states are not tapping their potentials because of dependence on nation’s crude oil earnings.
Are you suggesting that APC has failed Nigerians within two years in office?
Two years into the APC-led administration, no Nigerian except those outside the shores of the country needs a soothsayer to tell him or her that the administration has failed woefully. Even an unborn child in the mother’s womb feels the hardship brought upon Nigerians by the APC government. What the government has resorted to in the past two years is propaganda and blaming the past administration. But they fail to realise that Nigerians are now wiser to tell the difference between a succeeding government and a failing one.
The situation in the country has gone so bad economically that majority of Nigerians are begging the APC government to return the nation to the state it was before it took over in 2015. Celebrating two years anniversary, the administration cannot boast of any area it has impacted positively on Nigerians. It is so pathetic that one of the spokespersons of President Muhammadu Buhari recently mentioned the rehabilitation of the Abuja Airport runaway, which gets flooded whenever it rains as one of the achievements of the APC-led Federal Government.
Today, the exchange rate of the naira to the dollar, pound and other foreign currencies is outrageously high with the resultant high cost of imported goods and services. Thousands of Nigerians particularly in the private sector have lost their jobs due largely to the retrogressive economic policies of the APC administration. Daily, the costs of even farm produce are on the increase and the government is helpless. On security, we have had incessant and wanton killings and destruction of lives and property all over the country especially in Southern Kaduna and Benue State. The activities of Fulani herdsmen have also claimed many lives in Delta, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States.
What about the anti-corruption fight of the administration, which many people say has been yielding fruits. Won’t you at least give credit to the administration in that regard?
I can only give credit to the anti-corruption crusade of the administration when the approach is holistic and not selective as it is now. In my assessment, the Buhari government is hiding under the guise of anti-corruption fight to witch-hunt top members of the opposition PDP to weaken the party from providing the needed opposition to check the excesses of the administration. The administration is quick to arrest and detain members of the PDP at the slightest allegation of fraud, while panels or committees are set up to carry out investigations whenever it involves APC members. In making objective assessment of the Buhari anti-corruption fight, it is important to ask how many convictions have the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recorded in the last two years? Besides, the anti-corruption fight must be fought on all fronts of our national life to achieve the needed result. It will not succeed if it is targeted at perceived political enemies.
In spite of your misgivings about the APC-led government, many stalwarts of your party have defected to the ruling party in the last two years. How has that affected your party, especially in Delta State?
Delta State is a peculiar PDP State. It is a state where the past governors, their deputies and the incumbent governor and his deputy are all still in the party. The defection of PDP members to APC has been very minimal and insignificant. It is interesting to note that in the last few months some people who defected to the APC have staged a comeback to the PDP. The return of the second civilian governor of the State, Chief James Ibori, has further consolidated the strength of the party in the state.
Presently, the opposition APC in Delta State is voiceless. The party is only known on Facebook and other social media platforms. What is a party without followers? The Delta PDP particularly in Delta Central meets at least every month from one local government area to another. The APC cannot boast of having a gathering of its members at the local government level in Delta State in the past two years. The key players in the APC in the state are former members of PDP who with time will return to the party following ongoing reconciliation efforts by the leadership of the party in the state. At the national level, most of the people defecting from PDP to APC were original members of PDP and are doing so for political patronage or fear of being persecuted.
How would you assess governance in your state under Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in the last two years?
First, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has over these past two years stabilised the economy of Delta State considering the debt profile of the state when he took over in 2015. At a point, it was almost impossible to pay the salaries of the state’s workers. But through prudent management of the state’s resources, no worker in the state is being owed salary as we speak.
Okowa’s policy of not embarking on a project except when the fund is available to complete it has ensured that projects started by his administration are completed in record time. On infrastructural development, the Governor deserves kudos in roads construction across the state. In the last two years, the administration has awarded 98 roads out of which 20 have been commissioned while about 25 of the roads would be inaugurated soon. The other 53 roads are ongoing at various stages with some at the completion level.
Despite not being able to employ qualified Deltans into the State Civil Service, the Okowa administration has done well in the area of youth empowerment programmes especially through agriculture. The administration has in the last two years through its Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) and Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) trained and equipped over 4,000 youths. In the area of political appointments, the Governor has kept his promise to the three senatorial districts of the state in terms of ensuring even distribution of appointments. He is really a man that keeps to his promise.
Finally, what is your advice to the Federal Government and also Nigerians as a whole towards addressing the current challenges facing the country?
Two years ago most Nigerians did not appreciate the PDP government at the centre. Today, the difference is clear. I am sure Nigerians have truly experienced the “change” they voted for and come 2019, they will be wiser to vote wisely. Meanwhile, beyond party politics, the APC-led government should face squarely the governance of the country. Both the rich and poor are feeling the hardship brought by the administration. They must act fast before the country drifts into anarchy that may warrant another military incursion into the leadership of the nation. This will not portend well for the progress that has been recorded since 1999, when the nation’s nascent democracy came into being. Let us not easily forget the words of Obafemi Awolowo in 1983 that, “the worst civilian rule is better than the best military dictatorship.”
It is worthy of mention here that come 2019 when Nigerians will go to the polls again to vote their candidates in the general elections, particularly for the presidential position, they should be very mindful of voting for persons with military background. Comparatively, it is clearly evident today that both the Olusegun Obasanjo civilian rule from 1999 to 2007 and the current one by Muhammadu Buhari have similarities especially in their dictatorial and draconian approaches to governance due largely to their military backgrounds. The administrations of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan were different, as remarkable progress was made in advancing the tenets of modern democracy in the country. Nigerians must not lose sight if this.