Former Minister of Information Prof. Sam Oyovbaire is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State. He spoke with Correspondent POLYCARP OROSEVWOTU on the Buhari administration and the people’s expectations.
What is your assessment of the Buhari administration?
Well, let’s give him the benefit of doubt. Some of us use to say a hundred days is too short; you cannot access a regime with it. But, a hundred days has history to it. It may not necessarily say that you have done well, but it shows the strength of character and grasp of the things you want to do.
But, I won’t be surprised if Alhaji Lai Mohammed, my friend and the Information Minister, says that one year is too short to judge the administration of Buhari. Let’s wait and see.
How would you react to the federal government’s plan to close the Maritime University, Burutu, Delta State?
The Federal Government is at liberty to do as it pleases, since it is not a state government project. But, let’s face the facts, I believe the government has not been properly briefed. This is not assumption, the little I know is that the proposal went to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and it was approved and money set aside, and the former President actually went and did the ground-breaking and the inaugural process of the place to take off. I am not sure whether a bill actually left FEC to the National Assembly to establish the university. Even at the early stage of Jonathan’s administration, when federal universities were created in some states, a law was passed to back the structures. So, it is likely that there was no law because it was an executive action, the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who is from the Niger Delta and perhaps with the approval of President Buhari, he may have said no, lets continue with it. I don’t know any way.
But, I would express sense of disappointment with the Minister of Transport that a project like this in his region cannot be defended by him; forget about PDP, APC politics.
There has been this perception that Buhari fight against corruption had gradually grounded other sectors of the economy. what is your take on this?
I see it very clearly that the policy or the drive of the government is to cut down corruption. That is commendable and there is no way he could have continued governance in this country, without first tackling the issue of corruption. What has come out so far is the question about some money set aside for the fight against terrorism and was diverted, but have we dealt with the Nigerian National Petroluem Corporation (NNPC) over subsidy? Have we dealt with other sectors like the railways, education sectors? There is corruption in all facets of the society. So, the policy or the drive of Buhari on corruption should be pursued vigorusly, by adressing it all ramification.
With respect to Buhari and his records in 1983 and so on, there is this mindset of the past, if you recall. When he came on board, all he did was fighting corruption and jailing people and it is the same mindset. So, he is repeating what he did as military Head of State. This time around, some of his ministers are also developing this mindset that, if you deal with corruption, Nigeria will improve. This is a poor political economic analysis. When did corruption start to grow? why don’t we go to Second Republic and see whether there was no corruption? I have not seen enough to suggest that change has come on board in President Buhari’s administration.
Are you implying that the APC government came into power without any plan to govern this country?
We cannot really say; I’m not an APC man, but a PDP person and what is quite clear is that immediately after the elections were over there was a committee that was set up headed by a very serious-minded old man, but beyond that committee, there was no economic team; there was no thinking. I’m not aware of any economic team, even as I speak with you today. During Obasanjo time, we knew about the economic team around him. under Jonathan, there was a team, but I have not seen a team around Buhari. History is only repeating itself. Eighteen months after taking over power (from January 1984 to August 1985 before he was over thrown), there was no economic team as well. So, we are repeating it again.
What is your take on the recent uproar between the FEC and the National Assembly on the 2016 budget?
I want to commend the civil society with respect to the budget, some group in the civil society did a thorough study, sector by sector, sub-head by sub-head of the budget; comparing those sub-heads with the previous budgets. What we saw was repetition of the previous budgets of Jonathan’s administration. They were just plugging money into the budget, l don’t want to call it deception, but there is no proper planning. You know the way budgets go; first, it is supposed to have come from the ministries, that is when the Ministry of Finance will now seat and see line-by-line what it is that you are bringing.
Ministries actually go to defend budget before it ever leaves the Presidency or before it leaves the FEC for the National Assembly. But, these were not done; they spent the whole time chasing corruption, Boko Haram and kidnappers all over Nigeria without thinking about what is going on. l felt for my friend, Sen. Udo Udoma, he must have been embarrassed; look at the quarrel in the Ministry of Health, who is a professor and a former Vice Chancellor.
So, you can see they haven’t changed anything; they have added more than the one we used to know.
Okowa’s government is about nine months old and not much has been achieved. What is your comment?
What Governor Ifeanyi Okowa found on the ground was rather rough. The last governor is a friend of Okowa; and both families are very friendly. The key thing is that Okowa inherited both assets and liabilities. The summary is that the liabilities, without prejudice to the performance of the last governor, is overwhelming. So, he was faced with big challenges, that he had no option but to address the state House of Assembly, barely a month after he took over, and told them about some of the challenges. Having said so, he is doing well.
While the burden of paying salaries was highly challenging, he has been able to swing into action in a few areas of activity, he graduated a set of youths, who acquired skills and were given some starter packs to continue and I think another set is on now. Then of course, few areas which he actually touched and done with, are roads, the section of the dualisation of the roads from Ughelli town to Asaba, which is Section A, many of the bad portions of the roads in the state have been rehabilitated through the Direct Labour Agency.
I have seen a few township roads being done in Warri, Orerokpe and the dualisation of Amukpe/Sapele, a few roads here and there are ongoing. But, the truth is that the revenue acruing to the state has dropped sharply. But, so far so good; he is a very organised young man and the beauty of it is that he knows this state in and out.
A lot of things are being done at the state capital, Asaba, probably you are aware of this. The biggest headache had been crime and how to curtail and handle it and this is not peculiar to the state. If you take the menace of cattle herdsmen, for instance. It is quite challenging. They are ravaging in this state, but in handling it, you need the police, the army and the Federal Government.