Tony Uranta, a human rights activists and a strong voice in the struggle for better Nigeria and Niger Delta is the Executive Secretary, Nigerian National Summit Group (NNSG), among other groups he leads. Uranta is unhappy with the achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari led All Progressives Congress (APC) government for its performance in the last two years in power, arguing that had the party lost the 2015 election many would by now be saying the country would have become a paradise had he won, but said sadly, the reverse is the case. He recently spoke with some journalist in Lagos, PATRICK OKOHUE reports.
Over two years since the current administration promised to bring about change, would you agree that the government has been brought about real changes?
I think the present Nigerian administration is in love with the Trump administration in America, because I just see both administration working as twin brothers; pushing out lies as their basic policy and expecting that their words would bring about change, not their actions.
We all can see. It is clear to the blind and obvious to the deaf that Nigeria is in a mess this bad since the end of the civil war.
I say this with all recognition that most people are going to react from two angles; one being, he was Jonathan’s friend and two, corruption is fighting back.
I will say for the second one that if Magu could come and arrest me, I will become rich because I would sue the whole nation because I have not benefitted corruptly from anybody, not even Jonathan or anybody that served in his government.
While I may sympathise that Jonathan lost, I thank God because if he had not lost we wouldn’t have heard the last of it.
Everybody would have been saying had Buhari got into power, Nigeria would have been an Eldorado. We all are seeing the Eldorado nonsense that Nigeria had descended into at this period.
All I can say is that change; may be was truly in the mind of especially President Buhari, who I think still has principles he is noted for, even though I am not sure how nationalistic they are,
but he is surrounded by a bunch of very corrupt, very inept and very confused gentlemen and ladies, both in this cabinet and his kitchen cabinet, let alone the people that have influence on him outside the government.
This your position on the government, does it take into cognisance some of the positive indices that the government has recorded in recent times, like the aspect of ease of doing. The fight against Boko Haram, there is a level of success because the activities of the insurgents have been drastically reduced. Also, the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has helped block leakages and cut wastages. Are you conscious of all these in your comments?
First, each of the three things you mentioned are issues that were started by the previous administration. Of course, we have gotten certain successes during this administration’s tenure, but let’s take each of the three at a time.
Ease of doing business has been brought about by their improving upon already laid down systems by the Obasanjo, Yar’ Adua and Jonathan administrations.
Who would have been able to fight Boko Haram when nobody wanted to sell arms to us? The reason why there is an increase in curbing Boko Haram surge was because the Jonathan government managed to bring in, through unorthodox ways, ammunitions and arms for the military to increase the fight.
If a man was threatened that if he ever attacked Boko Haram it would be seen as an attack on the North during campaign year and to still manage to clear Boko Haram from all the local governments just up to before the 2015 election, I would give him a fantastic pass mark.
If the people that told him thread easy, combine with the people that stood against him; that is, the then opposition, including Mr. President now and the then president of America, Obama, which made sure that none of its allies supplied us with weaponry.
If those few weaponry we brought in through unorthodox means, of course, we understand that the formal NSA, Dasuki, is still undergoing trial for allegedly spearheading the subverting of the resources meant for that fight,
but we found out that the present administration has not bought new equipment and yet has prosecuted that fight more effectively because they have no opposition threatening them as to make sure that they do not prosecute it and because the former administration had provided such weaponry. I will not consider that extraordinary at all.
I told former President Jonathan to bring in Gen Gusau (rtd) to head an homeland security because I believe a seasoned Northerner will better prosecute this action against Boko Haram, because he would not be accused of being an outsider.
That was the accusation against Ihejirika and Minimah when they were Chiefs of Army Staff and when Jonathan finally brought Dasuki and America refused to sell us arms and all her allies also refused to sell us arms and Dasuki decided to be more creative about bringing arms in,
which he did at different levels for the Air Force, Navy and especially the Army and it is the material the Armed Forces have used up to June of this year to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.
So, nobody can say he did not bring us weapon. If they had prosecuted the war less effectively I would have been surprised.
Then the TSA was not invented by this administration, it was invented by the last administration which has been carrying it out gradually, which is the best way to have carried it out,
but then this administration came in and said democracy has hampered in arresting people who are corrupt, forgetting that democracy is what got him into power and made him immune from certain prosecution.
Now, he came in, wants to stop corruption and one of the ways is through TSA, but in Economics, we were told you cannot pull all the money out of circulation at once.
That is why we have treasury bill and so on to create a gradual reduction in money in circulation. Now that we put all the money in TSA, immediately you started getting warnings from Economists here in Nigeria
and internationally that this is going to crash your economy you insisted and this led to the recession and what I call depression because by definition, when you have three quarters of recession, you have a depression.
You and I know that we had much more than five quarters of recession and yet Nigeria refused that we had a depression because we could lie to the people.
You know why so many of us have not got up to say that this government has not lived up to its promises of change, it is because we are embarrassed by the fact we stood for a government so radically – that he has not done what we expected the government to do.
We are not saying Buhari has done nothing. No! I am saying he should stop over exaggerating concerning his gains and accept his loses, so as to better rationalise and improve. So he can tweak his governance and improve the system.
There seems to be a collective decision by the South for restructuring and it seems the government is actually foot dragging on the issue, Do you see Nigeria getting restructured or do you think the proponents would have to wait till a later date to see a restructured Nigeria?
On restructuring, I am one of the people who birth the restructuring idea. Remember, up till the time of PRONACO, there was an insistence that we must have a Sovereign National Conference.
I and a few others decided that for us to keep insisting on SNC means we would not move forward, so, we started floating the idea and pushing for it through the Nigerian National Summit Group (NNSG),
which I am the Executive Secretary that what we need is a national conference. Don’t give it an adjective. When we get there let us talk about what we have to do.
It was clear when former President Jonathan submitted the report of the last National Conference to the National Assembly and handed it over to President Buhari that the nation had spoken as a nation and we now wanted it to be addressed by both the legislative and executive arms of government, which we have not had till today.
The fundamental decision of that conference boils down to one word: restructuring. Unfortunately, I hear a lot of people being intentionally mischievous about what restructuring really means.
And also, I have found out that we have let the debate about restructuring fall into the politics of Nigeria.
Restructuring honestly means changing the economic face of Nigeria so that every Nigerian can have a better life.
Because all we are saying is let everybody, every federating unit truly have control of its resources, pay something to the centre and develop itself along the line and manner it so decides is best for it.
Nigeria is currently at a crossroad and the perception is that the Hausa-Fulani have ulterior agenda, but recently, we have been having a kind of partnership between the South and the middle belt, do you think this development can bring about any change in the polity?
I think every union amongst everybody who is not feudalistic, who is not parochially centered on domination by one ethnic group in the national picture is a welcome development.
If the Arewa youths had not threatened the Igbo, the Southern leaders Forum would not have been created and Southern unity would not have come into existence. In fact, the North shot itself in the foot and also in the mouth, as they would find out soon.
I can tell you now and I would stand to be corrected by anybody, as a fact, that the Federal Government invited the Southern Leaders Forum to attend a meeting with Arewa Consultative Forum – that the Vice President would chair and we told the Federal Government that we are not attending any meeting that does not recognise the middle belt zone as a people.
The middle belt has declared very clearly North as one entity. No! The days of attempting to fool Nigerians that the North is one indissoluble block are over.
It is good that the Southern and middle belt leaders are now coming together, resolving difference and strengthening commonalities and this is going to create a new dynamics within the next three months at the most.
Even the party called APC is not going to depend on any one man’s word to make any region vote enmass for any candidate.
Each candidate will have to come to the people of each zone and convince them that he is their leader and should be given a chance in 2005.
As it is not likely that Nigeria gets restructured by this administration as being demanded, what would you say will be the position of the South in 2019, concerning whoever will be coming in as the president?
Mark my word, restructuring is going to be the central issue around which Nigeria’s next president will be determined whether for or against.
Restructuring is going to be the determinant factor to bring about the next president of Nigeria.
While I may sympathise that Jonathan lost, I thank God because if he had not lost we wouldn’t have heard the last of it. Everybody would have been saying had Buhari got into power, Nigeria would have been an Eldorado. We all are seeing the Eldorado nonsense that Nigeria had descended into at this period.